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Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'll be there for you...

Probably my favorite photo from the trip.

Not that Montezuma took his revenge on us -thank the Aztec Gods -but he could have.

Our weekend wasn't over. Sunday morning we breakfasted in Haiti. Not the country, (a bit far to walk/swim for us) but a good restaurant, popular with tourists and expats for its outdoor seating, where you can watch the Lima world go by.

I mention it just in case you should ever happen to be in Lima and need a good breakfast, or, more importantly, if you'd like to try their notoriously strong version of the signature cocktail of Peru, the Pisco Sour. Which I suppose you could have for breakfast but then you'd spend the rest of the day horizontal. Not necessarily a bad thing, but we had places to go and people to see. Orange juice, then.

"We" entailed, you guessed it, Mike and me and April and Royce. First stop: Mike and I took especial pleasure in showing April and Royce, residents of Peru, a local mercado (marketplace) at Ricardo Palma, that they'd yet to discover.

This was a small victory for us.

Sweet-faced flower seller removing thorns from roses

Mike and I both think that going food shipping in a foreign country, even if we don't buy anything, is a great and simple way to learn about the place and its people. Such a basic question: what do you eat?

This mercado took up a city block, with the outer narrow stores selling just about everything, and the everythings were stacked to the ceilings. DVDs, clothing, cleaning products, spices, kitchenware, like the store below,

and another which, inexplicably, had a stuffed, creepily red-eyed iguana suspended over the doorway. The stuffing escaping from the mouth of this stiff-footed fellow did not entice me to shop for kitchen gear.

Go figure.

Textile sellers along the walkway.

Food carts, flower and lace sellers clustered around the large main entrance. The sellers were pleasingly non-aggressive, merely arranging their wares and helping their customers. No hawking, no hassling.


A child and his grandmother selling delicious-smelling meaty somethings wrapped in leaves or husks.

Once you entered the halls of the open market the stalls were selling fruits and meats. For whatever reason I am driven to photograph meats swinging from hooks without refrigeration, and for this, I apologize.

I'll spare you the seafood photographs. While there were plenty of flies, the meat was probably fresher than anything we buy wrapped in a rectangular styrofoam package in the USA. Considering everything, the meat section wasn't terribly unpleasant, and the fruits were definitely fascinating.

There were the fruits we know, pineapples and oranges and grapes,
but there were stand-out differences as well;

Bananas thicker than the ones we know, blushed pink. The strange but reputably delicious chirimoyas, looking a bit like a round armored armadillo with green scales, orangy fruits with multiple protuberances to encourage chicken fertility, (no, really,) brown fuzz-covered offerings whose innards you were supposed to smoosh and put in your hair as a sort of conditioner, (this was explained in Spanish with lots of charades-esque hand motions, but I think we got it figured out,) enormous papayas...well, you get the idea.

I have no idea what those pale brown things are, above. Mushrooms? Giant Brazillian nuts? Really thick leaves of some sort? Your guess is as good as mine.

It was a riot of color and fragrances, some stalls as carefully laid out as in an upscale grocer's display, others a confusing mass that looked like what we might have returned to had I not cleaned out the vegetable drawer of our refrigerator before going on vacation.

Wait...did I clean out that drawer...?

The other nourishment for the people of Peru is obviously Catholicism, answering basic question #2 about the people of a place: what do you believe?

This one was easy to answer because there are crucifixes everywhere. I mean everywhere.

The Virgin Mary joins Jesus in looking silently down over the shopkeepers and their patrons, perhaps blessing the daily work. There was even a beflowered, ballooned litter to bear Jesus aloft on special occasions.

It was fitting that after the market we set off to find Jesus. This sounds like we were on a spiritual quest, but no, we were seeking the Cristo del Pacifico, which should have been easy to find since this particular Jesus stands along the coast, 122 feet tall. We could see him from far up the coast in our Miraflores hotel, especially at night, when the statue is flooded with color from spotlights.

It took a bit of creative driving, but eventually we found the correct road to the top of the mountain. Many jokes were made about the path to finding Jesus. Apparently there are wrong turns and detours.

As we passed some young men on skateboards three of them jumped nimbly onto the back of the truck, skateboards underfoot, holding onto the tailgate, one throwing his helmet into the truckbed with a resounding clunk. We were momentarily alarmed, but their easy grins and hang loose hand gestures reassured us; they were simply looking for a free ride up the hill.

Safety is not job #1 in Peru: there was a Red Bull skateboarding competition being held on the steep hill road, but they didn't bother to close the street to motor vehicles. So here came skateboarders at top speed, down through the traffic.

This was insane.

When we left the pavement where the sandy parking area began, we abruptly lost our skater friends. Skateboard wheels not so good on the sand. One hotly pursued us on foot, skateboard under his arm, to retrieve his helmet.

I felt guilty. Royce laughed. Business as usual.

Good kids. I hoped none of them ended up roadkill.

We were above the Chorrillos slums of Lima, looking down with Jesus over the squalor.

Someone was building boats among the shacks. We wondered how they planned to get their watercraft down to the water.

It looked like good work.

Looking up the coast to the rest of Lima where something like 8 million people live, altogether.

We didn't have time to walk with the crowds of pilgrims to the feet of Cristo del Pacifico, being late for a barbecue being held by our Dubai-now-Peru-friends...in my honor. Well, that's what I was told, anyway. I was a bit floored, but then, any reason is a good one for a party, yes?

And I am nothing if not an enabler.

I only regretted not getting to see what sort of religious tokens or keepsakes were being sold to the masses beneath the icon. Like meat hanging out in the the open, I find that sort of thing intriguing.

Off to a gated community, then, far, far away from the slums.

Behind the tall walls of our friends' home, by the swimming pools, many hugs, barbecue sizzling, salsas and beers and a large cossetted German Shepherd looking for handouts. It was strange and yet reassuringly familiar to see the faces of those that had meade up our away-from-home family in the Middle East, now in South America.

Glass of wine in hand, a few of us drifted away from the party, which was small and intimate enough to be a perfect time, to go see the waves crashing on the shore a few blocks away.

We could hear the surf long before we reached it, but before that we passed a portapotty bring used as an office:

classy. Dilbert, eat your heart out.

and out to the beach where the wind was skipping along and the waves were beating the shore. Huge waves, thundering as they pummelled the sands. And this was a calm day. Apparently on the rough days the waves invite themselves into the foyers of the waterfront properties.

We stood over the sun-scorched corpse of a beached dolphin that apparently even the ever-present vultures didn't want, in a surreal moment, wineglasses in hand.

and back to the party where we tried out the gigantic corn (tasteless! How strange and disappointing is that?) talked and laughed and shared stories and ended up singing loud and late to one guest's excellent piano playing.

compare the corn to the limes for size perspective. Crazy!

It was a day to absorb, not judge, watch and appreciate and taste and devour the experience.


  1. I always enjoy reading about your adventures and that last sentence is probably the reason why, you absorb without any judgement. I especially enjoyed the market photos!

    1. Thank you, darling, I have a market photo addiction issue, but no way will they get me to go 12-step.

  2. Such wonderful, evocative photos! Looks like you've been making the most of your time. That first pic is hilarious. :) Hope you had a lovely Christmas and that your new year is full of adventure and opportunity (like maybe a trip to Amsterdam?) :)

    1. Oh, if ONLY we were going to be in the Netherlands anytime soon, Tara! I adored Amsterdam, and now that I know you're in it...all the better. Plus I could bring Paula...

  3. I want to travel with you. Can I Natalie, please? Cracking up at the portapotty. Good eye.

    Happy New Year my friend!

  4. "Safety is not job #1 in Peru" This is but one example of why I love to read your blog. I love your dry humor!

    1. I'll take that compliment and ride around on it ALL DAY, thank you, dear!