Summary: food, new friends, culture shock, dancing, crazy traffic

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On NYE day, our hostel friend group went to the beach. My crowning accomplishment was not getting burned to a crisp. There was universal uncertainty about what to do in the evening. Fortunately, our hostel had a rooftop terrace and bar, so we ended up on the roof playing Peruvian beer pong, drinking Pisco drinks, and dancing. At midnight I struggled to join in the countdown in Spanish, but I was quickly distracted by the “Feliz aƱo nuevo!” from every direction. There are no formal fireworks in Lima, but everyone buys them, so we were treated to a medley of exploding colors in every direction.


On the first day of 2014 I took a taxi to the house of a girl I met through Couch Surfing. Maria Ysabel and I had met up on NYE just to say “hey,” and she immediately invited me to stay at her house. (Which was AWESOME, because I thought I might be staying with a guy I hadn’t met yet, and so far, not surprisingly, the local men have been aggressively flirtatious. Bleh.) When I arrived, Maria and her brother Manual welcomed me into their home like an old friend. New year’s day is for hanging out and doing nothing, so they made lunch and we chatted for a bit. That evening friends came over to hang out, drink wine, and play UNO. It was challenging for my extroverted self to be in a social situation where I could not engage in small talk (this has been a recurring difficulty for me since I arrived), but everyone was super friendly and we communicated with a mixture of Spanish, English, and smiling.


Maria was my guide to Lima for 4 days and gave me the opportunity to see Lima through the eyes of a local. She translated and showed me great places and most excitingly, taught me about the culture and history of Lima and Peru. We went on the “unofficial” buses, which are driven by private owners. The colors of the buses tell you where they go, and there is someone who stands at the door calling out where they’re going and collecting pasajare (fare), which changes based on where you’re going. With my lack of Spanish, I had no hope of navigating the bus system without a translator. Being in the bus felt like being in a video game. Lane lines? What lane lines? Horns are used liberally – it seemed as though horn = “yo”, where “yo” can mean, “I’m here,” “watch out,” “coming through,” and of course “*insert expletive here*”. Pedestrians have a similar approach to roads. There’s lots of running across at any opportunity. Germans and Seattlelites would NOT approve. I kept wondering when an accident would occur with all the buses we took, because passing was very aggressive. Fortunately, we only had one minor collision while our driver was trying to pass another bus. We disembarked quickly thereafter.

We went to Barranco, the bohemian neighborhood on Lima’s coast, south of Miraflores. I tried my first cebiche and it was DELICIOUS. Give me fresh fish cooked in citric acid any day. Maria got something that involved beef, baked bananas, and this risotto-type thing made with rice and beans. It was also freakin’ delicious.

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Friday night we went out to a Cuban salsa disco in Miraflores. Maria said they had some of the best mojitos in Lima (maybe in Peru?) and she was not wrong. There was a live band that played for 4 hours, and they were awesome to listen and dance to. The dancing was different than any social dancing I’d done, in that the partner swapping and going up to random people to dance was pretty minimal. I had a semi-constant partner though (a Peruvian who didn’t actually dance salsa… what??), so we played around to the music and had a grand old time. 3am rolled around and I was ready for sleep.

On my last night in Lima, we went to the Parque de la Reserva in the city center and then out to a bar in Miraflores. The park is known for it’s assortment of cool fountains and water/lights show (Think Bellagio in Vegas). I was skeptical about how interesting a water and lights show would be, and then I was blown away. The interplay of lights and water was incredibly cool. They had lasers as well as projected images onto this fountain, all accompanied by music. I think I sat for half of it with my mouth agape in astonishment. So trippy. The fountain park was huge, aside from the fountain where “the show” happens, and includes fountains that you can play in. Even thought the evening was cool for Lima (17 or 20C maybe?), it was a blast running amongst streams of water trying not to get hit (which was impossible to avoid and part of the fun).
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We left the park in high spirits and Maria took me to her favorite bar in Miraflores, Eka. It was very unassuming from outside, but a short ascent up a narrow stairway opened into a room full of myriad beautiful colors of paintings and stained glass. The energy was fantastic. I would go back in a heartbeat. We drank and chatted for a while, and then called it a night.


On my last day we had lunch at this chicken place, the name of which escapes me. It was also freaking delicious. I had a huge salad with the most tender chicken I’ve had in a while, and we shared an appetizer plate that included cow heart, which was quite good, if not a little dense. I joked that by eating the heart of a cow, I gained some cow powers. Like chewing slowly or multiple stomachs, or the ability to emit copious amounts of greenhouse gases? On second thought, I could go without those powers…

My bus to Huaraz in north-central Peru left in the evening (8-9 hours gets you from Lima to the mountain town at 3050m. That’s basically equivalent to Camp Muir, for you Mt. Rainier familiars out there.), so I hung out and packed at Maria’s house. Unfortunately that afternoon, my stomach began expressing that it did NOT like something that I’d put into it over the weekend, and as I prepared to leave I hoped that the meds I’d taken would calm my GI tract down. Sadly, they did not do all I’d hoped, so I spent a rather miserable bus ride trying to keep my poop in a group (to quote my friend Kristina). I arrived in Huaraz ready to lay down until it was all over, which is basically what I did for the first two days there. (In addition to acclimating to the altitude. Type 3 fun all around.) Happily, the morning of my arrival, I was greeted with glimpses of gorgeous glaciated peaks just outside of the city, and my heart lifted. I’d been too long in the city. I arrived at my hostel and the woman of the couple who owns it immediately went into caring-mom mode. I was so grateful for her care and for my bed.

I’m better now, and leaving tomorrow for the 4 day Santa Cruz trek. I made friends with some folks who finished the trek earlier this week, and their stories have gotten my stoked. Glimpses of the Cordilla Blanca from the roof of my hostel have been helpful, as well. šŸ™‚

In general, my emotional system has taken quite the shock in these first weeks in Peru, and as I work through the things I’ve observed and learned, I hope to find a concise way to share them with you here. 4 days in the mountains might help that thought-digestion process. Yea! Mountain pictures to come…

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