Living in South America/Peru – Part 6 (11/01/2009 – 11/30/2009)
Welcome to part 6 of the never ending story of my life in Peru and South America. It’s been a busy few days for me since my last entry on October 31. I finally started Spanish classes and have made it back to the new gym for my first work out. For the most part my time in the past few days has been filled with the drudgery of living. You know the drill, shopping, laundry, cleaning, writing and trying to get some photographs worked on.
Halloween in Miraflores turned out to be a bust for me. No trick or treaters stopped by the apartment and when I strolled up to Parque Kennedy there wasn’t a soul in costume. Those who did have some type of costume were the employees of the various discos, bars and restaurants that line the streets surrounding the Park. I tried taking a few night shots with my Canon G9 but they ended up being blurry and not worth posting. Sunday was a day of rest, I made a trip to Plaza Vea (kind of like a Walmart but bigger on the groceries side) and got some things I needed for the apartment as well as food. People are getting friendlier as I walk around the neighborhood more. I guess they wanted to make sure that I wasn’t some Gringo just passing through. I’ve also been hanging out my window taking a few shots of the area. It’s kind of fun looking down and taking photos of people when they have no idea you are doing it.
Monday I started my Spanish classes and it was a bit of a shock. The teacher uses very few words in English which I can understand since the student mix is Chinese, American, Canadian, French, Indian and Egyptian. We are a widely varied group by age also and there are many different levels of fluency in the class. I seem to fit somewhere in the middle. So far it’s a lot of fun and everyone is very friendly and outgoing. The immersion thing is good though, it makes you listen very carefully and try to get the words you know to get an idea of what she is saying. She is also a nice lady. After three days I can say that I have learned a lot and hope that it continues. I seem to have the hardest time with the speaking so far. I haven’t gotten away from the, translate it in my head and then speak model which I am used to. I can’t wait till it comes naturally.
This coming Saturday I am going to Cajamarca for five days, so I will be spending my birthday there. They say it is very beautiful there with lots of photo opportunities. I also hope to get an article out of it. I hope you all are having a good week. I sure am.
I have decided to skip the trip to Cajamarca, I do not want to miss that many of my Spanish classes. I think that concentration on my language skills is more important than travel right now. The classes have been going well; I am certainly not the best student but am far from the worst at this point. Of course all that could change in an instant. We now have eleven students in the class with varying degrees of skill. They are Stephen and Christopher from Canada, Mickey, Lu and Kimi from China, Rafat from Egypt, Jacob from India and Raymond, Emily, Andrew and myself from the USA. Obviously from the picture you can tell there is a wide range of ages and personalities in the group. They all seem to be nice people and we are enjoying the lessons together. We do get some homework but as with all classes like this, you get what you put into it. Not all of them speak English so our only means of common communication is in Spanish. This also makes it difficult for our instructor Mariella.
I haven’t done much else since my last entry, I met Larry for coffee on Thursday and as usual we had a great chat. I wandered about and took a few photos, got another nice sunset shot from the apartment. It was rainy (lluvioso) both Thursday (Jueves) and Friday (Viernes) so nice photo ops were rare. I did manage to catch a parade honoring Saint Martin. People were going up to the pallet he was carried on and placing flowers as offerings. Managed to get another nice sunset photo also. Naturally I had one exciting day where I left the apartment to go to class and left my keys (llaves), Cellphone and wallet in the apartment. That made for an interesting morning; at least I got to know some of my neighbors that day. They were all wonderful and tried to help to no avail. Today Steve’s family is coming to the new apartment to visit and have a late lunch. His Mom will be fixing it here in the kitchen (Cocina), it will be nice to have someone else’s cooking for a change. Tomorrow I am hoping for a road trip to Cieneguilla or Chosica to visit the sun since I canceled the trip to Cajamarca. I am trying to get back to the gym on a more regular basis again and resume my “long” walks in my efforts to capture Limeñeans living life. I hope all of you have a great weekend.
Well, we ended up going out for lunch much to my disappointment. We ate at Rustica on the main square in Barranco. It’s a “buffet” lunch place and I do not recommend it. The food was only so so and for the $/.30 charge per person, I could have gotten all I could eat and enjoyed it much more at Las Mesitas. That’s the problem with buffet places, granted you can eat a lot but the quality of the cooking leaves a little to be desired. They did have entertainment though and the woman who was singing came over and sang Fleiz Cumpleano to me at the urging of Steve and his family. The song came with a little cake with a candle on it, definitely the best part of my meal. The rest of the day I spent watching TV and writing a little. Steve, his brother and some friends took off to Lima Center to play video games at one of the game centers there. A team of mules couldn’t have dragged me there with them.
Sunday was a nice day; I went for a long walk up to Ovalo Guitierrez and snapped a few pictures there. They have an architecturally interesting church on this ovalo plus a beautiful statue of the Archangel Michael on a column in the center of the Ovalo. I also stopped in to a bookstore and bought a Spanish/English Dictionary for use in my class. La Professora is siempres slipping in palabras that I do not know. From there I walked up to the Parque Olivar. I believe I mentioned this park in my journal entries from a long time ago. It’s a beautiful park made from the remnants of an old Olive Plantation. There are fountains and a small pond with Japanese Carp located within it, nice paths and benches to just sit and enjoy the day also. It is supposed to be a premier location for bird watching and I have to admit it does look good just from the variety that I saw on my walk that day. There were lots of families strolling, people jogging and biking and others just sitting on a bench reading or enjoying the nice day. For me, it doesn’t compare to the park that runs along the Malecon in Barranco but the old gnarled trunks of the Olive Trees are beautiful. Sunday evening I started coming down with a cold. I could feel it coming on Saturday too but Sunday it hit full blown.
Spanish classes and studying have occupied the majority of my time this week. My birthday was nice but muy tranquilo. La Professora brought me a piece of cake and the class sand Feliz Cumpleanos to me. It was nice but a little embarrassing. Later that day; Steve, Jaita (his Mom) and Antonio brought over a big cake and helped me to celebrate a little. If you want to know why it says “Chicken” instead of Rodney, well it has something to do with the fact that I am white. I don’t get it but it but they seem to get a kick out of it. I also received many messages from friends near and far which made my day ( a GRANDE GRACIAS to all who sent them). The cold has had me up and down and I am hoping it will be gone by the weekend. I would like to go out with my friends Fiorella and Jose Friday evening for a glass of wine and some good conversation. Yesterday evening I cooked my first real Peruvian meal here in the apartment. It was Estofada con arroz y papas. It turned out really well and was actually the best I have had in Peru. Maybe I will open a little restaurant. LOL Tomorrow I will be meeting with Larry for coffee and Friday I will be the photographer at a restaurant review. It’s a nice week besides being a little sick. Hope all of you are having one also. As a final note I have to say that I am glad I canceled the trip to Cajamarca, I would have missed too much in class. I definitely am struggling to keep up with the pace of learning in class. The only good thing is that everyone else is also.
Wow, the rest of the week for me has been quite a little adventure. On Thursday I had my usual meeting with Larry for coffee and discussions about our writing and other things in the works. I hoped in a cab outside of Spanish class to make it over there on time. As we were passing Parque Kennedy I noted that they had some statues of cows painted in all manner of ways on display. So, after the meeting with Larry I ran home, grabbed my camera and headed back to the park to take some photos. It’s something called “The Parade of Cows” and apparently there are displays of these cows all over Lima. The other displays I know of are in Barranco and in Larcomar, as well as the Malecon running along the ocean front in Miraflores. It is put on by a dairy company here in Peru called “Gloria” and at the end of the display they will auction off the cows and donate the monies to various charities. The cows were painted/designed by multiple artists here in Lima and I think that they are quite beautiful and interesting. The most disturbing one to me is one I think was designed to portray Mad Cow disease or maybe it was a statement on how cows are treated by the big conglomerates. You can make that decision for yourself. The pic is included in this part of the entry.
Friday after class I had to go to a restaurant review in San Isidro. I was the assigned photographer. It was a place called “La Memoria del Sabor”, which I think translates to a memory of excellence or something like that. I like being the photographer for these events. I get to eat all the good food and don’t have to worry about content for the article that will accompany my photos. I have to admit that I think it’s hard to take good photographs of food in a restaurant with natural lighting. Anyway, we were given three different appetizers, two main courses and two desserts to sample. All of the food was very good but in my constant comparison to the food I have at Las Mesitas, I have to say that their Tacu Tacu was not up to snuff. Everything else was delicious though and LiP will give them a good review. After that I rushed back to Miraflores to meet my friend Jose who wanted to have a couple glasses of wine with me for my birthday. We enjoyed a long conversation over a bottle of wine and then it was time for me to head home and get some sleep as Saturday was going to be another busy day.
Saturday was an absolutely fantastic day. Lip had asked me to go on a cruise with some other members of the staff to do a review of a tour around the islands just off the coast of Lima. Initially I was supposed to write the article and Isabel would do the photos although, you know me, I would have taken plenty for myself also. Then suddenly Isabel couldn’t go and I was going to do both but on the way there we talked one of the other attendees, Tim Olson, into writing the article and I would just do the photos. Te people going were Katrina, the Editor, Tim who is another writer, Nathan also a writer and myself. We met up at the LiP offices and caught a cab together for the long ride to La Punta and the Yacht Club where we were to meet the Captain and board the sailing ship. Naturally when we arrived in Callao/La Punta we stopped the cab at the wrong Yacht Club so ended up arriving a little late after we straightened out our situation. We quickly boarded a skiff which took us out to the yacht and hopped aboard for our big adventure. The cruise was to take us out to San Lorenzo Island and then head by another island called el Fronton where an infamous prison held captives from the War of the Pacific for awhile. From there we headed past Viuda Isla which has a formation that resembles an elephant. It’s quite easy to make it out by the way. From there we headed for Palomino Isla where there is a colony of Sea Lions (known as Sea Wolves in Spanish). Then it was time for another leg of the journey past an isla called Altaje (which looks like a sea lion) and round the other end of San Lorenzo where we anchored in a bay for lunch and lounge time before heading back to the port.
The cruise was amazing. Despite the cloudy and misty morning it was thrilling being on the open sea in a small sailing yacht. The Captain, Eugenio Oliveira, was an extremely friendly man and very capable sea captain. The tour guide and captain kept us fully informed the entire time as to the sights and history of the islands. The highlight of the cruise was getting so close to the colony of sea lions. The other three from Lip actually went for a swim with them and you could tell from the expression on their faces and shouts of delight that they were enjoying the experience to the max. It is incredible to be so close to To show you how good it was, I made a pig of myself and those of you who know me know that I am not that fond of sea food. Especially the NON COOKED variety. After lunch, Nathan decided to take another swim and Tim broke out the Kayak and decided to go for a little row. Katrina and I lounged on the deck of the boat and conversed with the Captain and tour guide. It was a great break from the sailing as a couple of people from LiP (not me) were starting to get a little sea sick. The tour guide also told us that there had been over 300 mummies discovered on the large island of San Lorenzo that had been buried there by the Limenean Culture thousands of years ago. They did not actually live on the island but would ferry the bodies over for burial.
Leaving the island and heading back to port the Captain only used the sails, it was wonderful. The sun had come out by this time and there was a nice breeze. It was so quite without the engines running. Reaching the port area the captain toured us around the entire port area where we got to see many freighters anchored off the coast as well as a big science ship called the Humbolt that mostly cruised the Antarctic. It finally came to an end and we all piled into a cab for the ride home. It was a wonderfully exhausting day and sleep came easily to me that night.
Today I have been working on getting the photos ready for publishing for the restaurant review and the cruise. I toll 477 photos on the cruise so going through all of them and picking out 60 or so of the best for LiP to select from took me most of the morning. The Suns out now and I might just go for a stroll after I get all this posted. I hope your weekend was as spectacular as mine.
It’s been a rather uneventful week which will explain the late entry in this log. The first part I spent studying for the most part and trying to polish up a few articles I was working on. The Spanish class is really my first priority now and I get the feeling that it will be that way for the next year. This class, in the first month presumes that you have a minimal knowledge of Spanish (especially listening) already and the teacher RARELY speaks in English until she sees that I am totally lost. The wide mix of students also presents a problem in that she is teaching to the slowest among the class and as a result we ended up way behind at the end of the month. In the first three weeks she covered 74 pages of the book and then 74 pages in the last week with 60 of those being the last two days. In those last two day she covered the irregular verbs (ir, dar and estar) which are extremely difficult to get the hang of as far as use is concerned. Although I am sure I will have the grades to pass to the next level, I fear that my lack of understanding of these verbs will hurt me in the next class.
Wednesday evening I went out with my friends (Katrina, Tim and Nathan) for Pizza. I had made copies of the photos I took on the cruise and burned them to DVD for them. We went to the Infamous “Pizza Street” here in Miraflores off the Parque Kennedy. It’s well known as a hangout for gringos and other tourists who are in town. I was unimpressed with the pizza but as all of you know, there is no such thing as “bad” pizza. We had a great time with Tim and Nathan joking about getting modeling jobs here in Peru. We all had a good laugh and shared stories about our time here in Peru and our home countries. At the end, Nathan had to go meet a young lady who was the daughter of a friend. Katrina, Tim and I went to Haiti for a coffee before heading home. Tim is an English Teacher here in Lima and writes for LiP on occasion. Nathan is a writer and has spent a lot of time abroad. He’s published some works on his travels and will be writing for LiP also while he is here. Katrina is the ne editor at LiP, she replaced Ben and is an excellent writer in her own right.
Thursday after class, Larry stopped by for coffee and we had our usual weekly chat about a wide range of topics. I then went for another of my long strolls around Miraflores, ending up on the Malecon and enjoying a beautiful sunny day in the amazing parks that line this street. I came across another parade of cows with some that were even more stunning than the ones in Parque Kennedy. I have placed a few of the photos throughout this entry. I also came across another example of the wonderful street art here in Lima. I am still amazed at the wide variety of talent they have here. Included is also a picture of the Statue of the Kiss in the Parque de Amor by the famous Peruvian sculptor, Victor Delfin. I think it looks great against the back drop of the blue sky.
This morning was the first of my three exams I have to take and pass to be able to move on to the next level. It was the written exam and I think I did fairly well on it. Monday will be my conversational exam with my assigned partner. His name is Raafat and he is Egyptian. He speaks a little English so that helps. I am going to meet him Saturday afternoon to practice our conversation. Tuesday is the one I am worried about, it is the oral exam. The old brain is just not as quick as it used to be. So, as you have probably deduced, I will be studying all weekend. I hope yours is a lot more fun.
The weekend didn’t turn out to be so bad after all. I finished off Friday studying and going for a little walk, then spent another hour with the books before going to a movie. It was the new version of Scrooge with Jim Carey and I have to admit I enjoyed it thoroughly even though it was in Spanish. Saturday morning Steve and I went for a nice breakfast and he helped me with my Spanish while I drank a couple more cups of coffee. That lasted till almost noon when he left to go to the gym with the promise of meeting up with me later. I took a break from the Spanish and watched a little TV. Steve then showed up and we were off to meet with Raafat to make up and practice the conversation that Raafat and I would have for the Exam on Monday. The conversation revolved around what we did on the weekend and how well we thought we had done on the exam Friday. It was short and easily memorized. Afterwards we left and Steve headed home. I went back to the apartment and retyped the conversation and started the memorization process. Then early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. I’m still waiting for that wealthy part. LOL
Sunday morning I did a little writing on an article I am doing on some of the parks here in Lima. Tim texted me asking if I would like to meet for a coffee or lunch and I called him back readily agreeing. We met up down by Larcomar and had a nice lunch at one of those $/.7 Sole places. It’s amazing how cheaply you can eat out here if you really want to. Afterwards we strolled down to Larcomar (the Mall) and had a coffee on the balcony of Café Café which I had with a small postre also. The sun was out and Tim had been biking along the Malecon before meeting up with me, it was a beautiful day. We enjoyed sitting and talking about his exploits at a school function the previous Friday evening and watching the surfers and beach goers enjoying the day. Afterwards we parted company as he wanted to continue his bike ride and write the article from the boat tour of the islands. He asked and I agreed to edit for him after he was finished. I got the article later in the day by E-mail, made some changes and returned it to him within an hour. After parting company with Tim I walked around a bit more before returning home to study the conversation piece some more. After studying and working on Tim’s piece I did some more work on my own.
Our conversation went really well in class and Raafat and I both got perfect scores for our hard work. I have to admit that we were both really nervous though. The rest of the day Monday I spent writing, studying or watching TV while Sonia made my apartment spotless again. I must say I don’t know how well I would do without her. Today, we had the oral exam and I did really well on it also, so I passed the first cycle with a score of 97 out of a possible 100. The second cycle starts this Friday after Thanksgiving and I am nervous about it. I hope I have some of the same classmates in it also, although about half my class failed and will have to repeat the first cycle. The rest of the week will be a full one for me. A restaurant review tomorrow where I will be the photographer again, a play Thursday night where again I will be the photographer, Friday first day of second cycle class and on the weekend a trip to Ica to photograph a sand boarding competition. It seems that my life here is either very hectic or very tranquil with no in between. LOL
I’m back from my first class in the second cycle of Spanish. So far so good although I still consider my conversational skill weak. I am finding that I understand this Profesora better than the last one. Her enunciation is clearer and she talks louder, although she does occasionally speak too fast for me to catch it. She is also just as nice as the last teacher which helps a lot. Only four students showed for today’s class but I imagine that more will join us next week on Monday. I think it is really strange that they start a class on a Friday. So far I know that Mickey (from China), Stephen (from Canada) and Rafaat (from Egypt) from cycle one are in this class with me. There is one new guy so far who is from Alaska whose name I have forgotten already. Too much Spanish occupying the brain! LOL
It’s been a fairly busy week for me. Wednesday I had my usual meeting with Larry, Katrina and Levi for coffee at Espige de Oro. We had a nice long chat and covered all kinds of topics as usual. I really look forward to these meetings. Next week Larry has invited us to his home for the coffee and we are all looking forward to seeing his place. After coffee, Katrina and I headed into San Isidro for another restaurant review. Once again I was to take the photos. The restaurant was really nice and the food very good. A little too much squid and octopus on the menu for me but they were tasty. Of special note were the desserts. Hmmmmmm, I could have made a meal out of them alone. We were served 4 appetizers, 4 main courses and 12 desserts to sample. After that I grabbed a cab to meet Rafaat so that we could sign up for the next cycle in Spanish together. He’s a nice guy and we enjoyed taking the first class together so we wanted to make sure we had the same class in the second cycle. Afterwards it was home and a nap for me as the two glasses of wine and all the rich food had made me very sleepy.
Thanksgiving Day was pretty much just another day for me. The highlight was talking to my family on Skype for about an hour. What a great tool, being able to teleconference and actually see everyone while we were talking. My grand niece and nephews are growing up so fast. I spent most of the day working on the photos from the restaurant and getting them ready for publishing. Then in the evening I went to a play in Lima Center with Nathan, another writer here in Lima. He wanted me to do some photos of the play for an article he will be writing on it. The play was very “avant guarde” as it was not on a traditional stage but took place in an abandoned collective and moved around the building. Obviously there was no sitting as the audience had to follow the actors. I fully admit that I enjoyed the performance very much. I understood a lot of the play and the acting was excellent. The audience was very appreciative also, giving the actors and playwright loud and enthusiastic applause.
Later today I will be going to Gamara (I hope) to have a suit made (cost approx $100 US) and then work on a couple of articles the rest of the day. The trip to Ica to photograph the sandboarding competition is still on. I will be leaving Saturday morning and coming back on Sunday from that. Hope all of you are enjoying the long holiday weekend if you got it off work.
I made it into Gamara to have the suit made on Friday. It’s a wild place with the biggest crowds I have seen anywhere. Steve and Antonio accompanied me to make sure I got a good deal so there was lots of bargaining and arguing going on, more about the fact that I am so tall than the fact that I am a Gringo. We settled on a tailor and I picked out the cloth I wanted it made from as well as the style. I picked a style with a two button jacket that looks very elegant to me. He then did my measurements and told me that he would be at my apartment tonight (Monday) at 8pm for the second fitting. Total cost ended up being S/.400 Soles or somewhere between $130 and $150 US depending on the exchange rate that day. Not bad with all things considered.
Saturday morning very early I was off with my friend Nathan to Ica and the small community of Huacachina, a small oasis in the middle of the desert. I do mean desert my friends, had I not known that I was in Peru I would have sworn I was in the middle of the Sahara Desert at an Oasis. We took a bus to Ica and then a short cab ride to Huacachina. Coming up over the first of the big dunes to drop into this small Oasis with its lake and palm trees was a startling sight. We were here to write an article and take photos of an International Sandboarding Competition. By the way, this plant was growing in the middle of the courtyard of the Hostel we stayed in. Anyone recognise it? Nathan had been invited as the writer and he asked me to accompany him and do the photography. Naturally I jumped at the chance. The competition lasted two days and involved three events. There was Slalom, a High Air and a straight race to the bottom. The dunes are huge and climbing them was a real chore for me as I had to get to some good spots for the photos. I definitely got a lot of exercise while I was there. For those thinking of coming to Peru this place deserves a visit. Despite its tranquil appearance there is a lot to do here. They have Dune Buggy rides, they rent sandboards, and there is the small lake with paddle boats for rent, a few discos and a lively night life for such a small place. The desert itself is huge and when you stand on top of one of the ridges and look across its vastness it seems to go on forever. Sandboarding itself looks like a lot of fun but there are no lifts taking you to the top of the dunes, so being in shape helps a lot. The food in the restaurants we ate at was good and well prepared. There was a large international group of visitors to Huacachina although I don’t think most of them were actually there for the competition. Regardless there was a good sized audience for each of the events.
Sunday we got another bus back to Lima, one that wasn’t quite as luxurios as the one we took there. A little cramped but we made it back just fine. I was in the apartment by 7pm and went out for a quick bite to eat before returning to the apartment and taking a good look at all the photos I had taken.
Today it was back to Spanish class, we had a total of nine students by the end of this class. I nice size but there were no others from my previous class who joined us. We added a guy from Turkey, one from South Africa and two more Americans. So, it’s a nice mixture of people. All speak at least a little English except for Mickey, the guy from China. Raafat was back in class today and he gave me an invitation to his wedding. I accepted and am looking forward to going; it’s next Saturday so I hope my suit will be done by then. It will be the first Muslim wedding I have attended so it should be very interesting. The actual marriage ceremony will take place in a Mosque here and there will be a party following at another location.
Well that’s it for this entry; hope all of you had an exciting weekend also. Not much going on this week. I hope to get some writing done. Later mis amigos!