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all text and photos copyright 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. 2016



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Forever we will stay, like a pyramid...


One of the amazing things about living in Lima is how time is measured entirely differently to that which I am used to; taking 40 minutes to cut up vegetables for a recipe is entirely normal.

Forty. Minutes. Of veggie prep. That's like a lifetime.

In 40 minutes I generally expect to be halfway done eating whatever I started cooking 40 minutes ago. 

But I'll tell you more about the cooking in another post. You know I will; I always do. 

Then there's this: multi-tasking is unheard-of. Customers are waited upon one at a time until they are taken care of, then you move on to the next person. As a consumer this could be gratifying or infuriating, depending on where you stand in line.

Craft works and food are not considered valuable for the time put in but rather in the quality of components and workmanship. 


With, of course, the exception of the ubiquitous mass produced made-in-China dreck for tasteless tourists found within 100 miles of any airport. People buy that stuff for the same reason people buy fast food. It's easy and accessible. It can't always be helped, but it can be ignored. Such is our world. 

Around Miraflores, "our" neighborhood in Lima, there are several large craft markets. These offer all of the above, cheap junk, beautiful artwork, and everything in between. You have to put in the time and effort to sort through to find, and then negotiate for, your treasures. 

The stores each has their own small, generally crammed stall, perfectly suited to Peruvian-sized folk. Caucasians do well to keep arms, legs, and rear ends tucked in at all times, or risk breaking something that would probably turn out to be enormously expensive. 



The kids decided that our favorite, the Mercado Los Incas, is just this side of heaven. All those colors! All that stuff! All those nice señoras and señoritas who always seemed to know exactly what would tempt small children.  

Bethy immediately developed a love for alpaca fur. Thomas was fascinated with wooden toys. Both wanted t-shirts and caps and embossed leather cowboy hats, magnets, and pretty much anything to do with guinea pigs and llamas or the Peruvian flag. 

All well and good. They remembered their haggling skills from the Middle East, tried out their Spanish, and paid with Peruvian soles from their own coin purses, which almost inevitably lowered the asking prices.

Good fun for all. 

Mommy, though...was intrigued by the textiles, the silver and the carvings. No discounts on the latter two. I was fascinated by the detailed artistry of the gourd carvings in particular: 


The best of the stalls were generally run by women, and those women would be weaving or carving or painting or gluing when no customers were present. Those stores always had the real treasures. The woman above was shy at being caught making her wares; perhaps she thought it gave more mystique if the gourd whatever had been made in the mountains or desert in a tiny hut, but we liked meeting the ones who actually made the beautiful works, and getting a glimpse of the time and talent that went into making these objects. I encouraged her to please, por favor, show us what she was doing. 

She needn't have been shy; her hands were skilled, her carvings delicate and beautiful. She explained, with much linguistic effort, that the gourd had been painted the green color, that it wasn't naturally that way, but that the creamy pale beneath was true. 




The tree of life, she explained, flowering -could I see? -and the hummingbird, el colibri, an animal she loves, if I understood correctly, because it is small yet fierce.

I bought a beautiful pendant of the living tree carved in a gourd background of burnt orange, framed in silver.

Even mommies need mementos, right?

I loved how the storekeepers managed us as customers, my favorite time being when Thomas really had to go to the bathroom and the baño, usually guarded by a nice young man who would gladly let you go by and might even hand you a couple of squares of toilet paper for a fee, was unattended and very much locked.

The wily lady who had been showing us some lovely alpaca scarves realised that she wasn't going to make the sale unless we took care of the little man's bathroom needs, so she took us through the labyrinth of stalls to a secret bathroom. She hustled back to her store but sent a relative to fetch us back; no fool she.

Yes, she made the sale.

Lest you think all we did in Peru was shop and eat, let me tell you about the adobe pyramids, Huaca Pucillana just a short walk from the kids' TaeKwonDo classes.

Yes, we had them take TaeKwonDo in Spanish. But that's another story as well.

The pyramid rises greyly next to a busy street. A sight such as this should be out of place in a modern city like Lima, yet. somehow, it is utterly right.




If I understood the tour correctly, which is assuming a lot. at least two cultures were involved in building and worshipping in the tiered mass of stone; the Lima and the Wari, between 1,800 and 1,000 years ago. With the arrival of the Spanish, the pyramid itself fell into disuse and the people used the area as a garbage dump, until around 1980 when interest grew again in this massive artifact from the past. 
Bulldozers and archaeologists began to slowly unearth\its secrets. 




The research was very much continuing; with the structures gradually being restored, finds reflecting spiritual practices long gone; pottery, textiles, and, as expected, the remains of victims sacrificed long ago to appease the Gods.

It was exciting to be at an ongoing excavation site. I found it nearly as interesting to watch my kids' reactions to things. Mostly they were interested in digging in the dirt,



and bickering with one another.


I hope you appreciate his brotherly love expression as much as I do. 

We were the only US Americans, and my kids were the only kids on the tour. Par for the course for us. 
I get kind of thrilled by that status. There's no hiding it. 

Part of being a tourist is to be amused by other tourists, and I was most entertained by a young man who apparently was also quite rich; he had not one but two fillies wearing the tightest jeans they could achieve, one on each arm, each sporting footwear not intended for a dusty afternoon tromping up and down a pyramid. The one with the wedge heels had a swinging cloud of black leather fringe flying from the top of her shoes. 

You can't buy class like that. 



Neither lost her footing. I was impressed. 

As you can see, unlike the more famous pyramids in Egypt or Mexico, the Huaca Pucllana is surrounded by businesses and homes, Lima all around. History smack dab in the middle of the everyday. 

The talk of human sacrifice (the priests killed children, I murmured in my offspring's ears. My children stopped bickering.) held our tour group in thrall.



The entire site couldn't have taken more than 40 minutes to explore, dutifully following our guide, and though I looked longingly toward the areas where the newest excavations were taking place, no one invited me to take a a brush or trowel and join in.

Dang.

I blame the kids.