Thing is, the longer I am here in Peru, the less I have to tell. Or so it seems. Lima has become home, one more. And the more I get to know it, the better I can give instructions to any taxi driver (here you negotiated the price beforehand and it's best is you know your way around), the less exotic it all seems and, ergo, the less there seems to tell.
I have talked to you a few times of some aspects of Lima. Perhaps I can fill you in a bit more on this enoooormous city (9,000,000 mio inhabitants), a city of many faces.
But before I dive into bringing Lima a little closer to you, I just want to mention that wonderful friends came to stay for a while. Every time that happens, Lucho and I enjoy it tremendously. It’s this mountain and the prophet thing, I’m not sure though what's what or who's who.
More friends are on their way (not to see us, specifically, but this wonderful country which has so much to offer in every way. Even my niece will be here, all the way from Finland, to ‘do’ Arequipa, Cusco (and all the Inka sites surrounding this beautiful old town), Puno (and Lake Titicaca, the Uros islands, Taquile etc). Then she comes back to Lima and we’ll do some museums (they have amazing ones), the restaurants (they have amazing ones), the craft markets (they have ama… well, you guessed) and perhaps a boat trip out of Callao harbor to visit the sea lions. But that’s not all: we plan to visit the Galapagos Islands. I’ve never been and she quite rightly said it seems silly not to when she’s coming such a long way. Just. My wonderful incoming travel agency is just calculating and making it all work.
I tend to tell everyone that our summer (December, January, February, March) are generally not very good months for travelling in Peru, because it's the rainy season. This time we have had floods in Arequipa - (about 100 houses destroyed, roads sliding into holes, bridges being swept away by powerful, swollen rivers), a volcano about to erupt in Colca and landslides preventing tourists from leaving the area, we've had alarmist announcement by the US embassy about American citizens about to be kidnapped and 'don't go to Peru' warnings and other unlikely stuff. The American tourists who did 'disappear' were found happy and alive canoeing down the Amazon. They'd wanted to 'get away from it all'.
Isn't it interesting that Dr Livingston would have been declared absent because he didn't draw any money on his credit card and would have been found with the help of a GPS, helicopters overflying the area, and Facebook.
A couple of friends just made it safe and sound from Arequipa back to Lima, enjoying every minute of their visit. My ex-husband speculated whether you could run fast enough in the rain not to get wet, and I think those two did just that. They got to Arequipa just after the rains stopped. They got to Colca just before the landslides, somewhere else just before the earthquake and to another place just after something else.
Don't let that put you off. They also talk a lot about robberies in Peru and, yes, they happen. But in a country with around 30,000,000 inhabitants (9,000,000 alone in Lima), shit happens. The only times my bag got stolen was (a) in London one night, just outside my office, and (b) in Madrid one afternoon, just outside Amadeus. Admittedly the guys who nicked my bag outside Amadues' office were Peruvian. The irony.
Where was I? Oh, of course, Lima. Let’s start at the very beginning: Lima was started, quite thoughtlessly, as a small settlement by the river Rimac in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro, a dirt-poort, illiterate conquistador who had nothing to lose so he went a-conquering, became all-powerful and exceedingly rich, of course. At the time Lima counted only a few families, trade posts (gold I would assume). Lots more, let’s skip it.
Fact is that Lima did become prosperous, and the roads, made for horse-drawn carriages and not exactly well looked-after, no ministry of roadworks, were not prepared for cars and certainly not for so many. Lima is an agglomeration of many districts (some of them extremely poor, others inordinately rich) of which only some actually take in the sea. Let’s pick out the better known ones counting from the South: Chorillos, Barranco, Miraflores, San Isidro, Magdalena, San Miguel, La Perla – which gets us already to Callao, Lima’s next-door neighbor, harbor and airport. Lucho and I live in Miraflores.
Lima originally looked inwards, away from the sea. Along the Pacific coast, the districts which are now so coveted and mostly quite expensive (and rising), were spas. People used to go there - come here - during the summer. The wives and children, mostly. Husbands to visit on weekends. Remember "The Seven-Year Itch" with Marylin Monroe? These districts have now been very much incorporated into the city landscape and our friends, the developers, are trying to build skyscrapers where there are now wonderful parks and untrammeled views of the Pacific ocean. Sadly, too many permits can still be bought for enough cash. May their belly buttons pop out. There is nothing quite like living where I do and sleep to the sound of waves breaking on the beach and waking up to the same sound and the view of ocean, ocean, ocean and nothing else.
Peru’s economy is growing. The Spanish builders who, together with the Spanish banks, created the Spanish construction bubble, are all here, busily doing the same thing. I am not so sure the banks do the same now, here as they did then, there. One hopes that something has been learned in the meantime. And even though basing one’s growth mainly on the export of raw materials is perhaps not sustainable or, at least, not a very clever thing to do, right now it works and Peru feels stable.
Feels stable, indeed. As long as the government is too shortsighted to be present in that huge country of many hues which is Peru, the country will not BE stable. For the politicians, Peru seems to stop at the Lima borders. That’s not a healthy state of affairs. Talking about healthy: corruption is still institutionalized, even though there are enough people beginning to check out who’s skimmed the cream off the top of the milk in the recent past – and there are many. But money can still buy an awful lot of things, services and dropped court cases. As the master so the employees. Among the traffic police are a lot of women. The explanation: they can’t be bribed as easily as men. There is a technique among traffic cops (and I was present when they tried it on Barbara): you stop a reasonably posh car for an infraction which the driver more than likely did not commit (even if he/she did, the same applies). The driver will hand over his papers with a nice banknote folded into them and ask, ‘Officer, can we sort this?’ You bet you can. Barbara is of sterner stuff. She told them off, threatened to call her husband and the lawyer and they poodled off. Chapeau.
End January, February and March normally finds us at a beach about 30 km South of Lima. Still quite unspoiled, quite primitive, wonderful, with the human sardine effect so far absent (at least where we hit the sand), and when the kids are back in school (1 March) we oldies can enjoy a ceviche* and a beer in considerable space and comfort.
* if you haven't tried a ceviche yet, go and find a good Peruvian restaurant near you and have one, preferably at lunch time.
My freelancing is picking up again, mainly branding and web content, so that’s nice. My poems are getting published, that’s very nice. My books are selling in dribs and drabs, that’s ok because I have settled down to the idea that I will not live of my novels. I’ll live off my husband instead. Ha! I am not sure whether I’ll write another one. Perhaps.
I am straddling both worlds happily, enjoying the privilege of being able to ‘do’ Europe once a year. I can see my kids, the granddaughters, dear friends, and my big brother in Germany who’s just getting over a major operation. Still, there’s never enough time to meet up with everyone. And how I once found time for work I have absolutely no idea.
I owe you a bad joke. This one came recently via the ‘interweb’ and, even though it’s not new, I still find it funny (and I’m getting there):
Lucille decided to give herself a treat for her 80th birthday by staying overnight in a really posh hotel. When she checked out the next morning, the desk clerk handed her a bill for 1,200 Euros. She demanded to know why she was charged such an exorbitant price. “I agree it’s a nice hotel, but the rooms aren’t worth 1,200 Euros for a one night stay. I didn’t even have breakfast.”
The clerk explained that it was the standard rate and that breakfast was included, even though she didn’t want it. When the manager came out of his office the following conversation ensued:
“This hotel has an Olympic-size pool and a huge conference center for use by the guests.”
“I didn’t use them!”
“But you could have.”
“The hotel is also famous for its in-house shows, also included in the price. The best entertainers from all over the world vie with each other to be hired by us.”
“But I didn’t watch it.”
“But you could have.”
This can become an endless shaggy-dog story. Let’s cut it short: whatever the manager mentioned, her answer was: “But I didn’t use, watch, eat, see it.”
In the end she decided to write out a cheque.
“Madame, this cheque is for only 500 Euros!”
“That’s correct. I charge you 700 Euros for sleeping with me.”
“But I didn’t!” says the hapless manager.
“But you could have,” she smiled.
Never mind the quality, feel the width.
Let’s get off the subject of getting old by making our mouths water with another Peruvian recipe (thank you, Yanuq – the best website for Peruvian recipes) http://www.yanuq.com/
LOMO SALTADO / Sauteed Beef Tenderloin
2.2 lb (1 k) beef tenderloin, sliced into thin strips
3 red onions, peeled and cut into at least eight pieces
2.2 lb (1 kg) all-purpose potatoes, peeled, cut - for French Fries
4 ají amarillo fresco / fresh yellow ají (or chili), sliced into thin strips
4 tomatoes cut into eighths
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 ¼ cups oil
½ teaspoon lime juice
Heat ½ cup oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add beef and quickly sauté until beef is seared and browned on all sides. Remove pan from heat and transfer beef to a plate. Save covered.
Return pan to medium-high heat and add 1 ½ tablespoons of oil. Add onions and sauté until edges are seared and they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add ají amarillo, tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, soy sauce and vinegar. Sauté until tomatoes have softened, about 2 minutes.
Add beef and toss gently.
Serve with rice, sprinkle the beef generously with finely chopped parseley. Serve French Fries as a side dish.
Friends, I'll soon be in Europe again. Right now I am sorting my agenda. I'll let you know more soon.
So, clearly, it'll be AFTER travelling I'll get in touch via this blog again. Be well, thank you for reading this stuff and the wonderful mails you send me after you've received it.
One happy Peruvian.
Don't forget to look in on my other blogs from time to time:
The Boehm (Rose, Romy, Rosmarie, Rose Mary, Rosie...)