February 11th, 2008 – by: Belluomo
Founding of Lima
I have to confess, I almost don't recognize the city, seeing it in the middle of summer. My previous experiences of a gray, polluted, humid, depressing urban jungle are happily things of the Lima
winter only. Every day it's been in the 70s with brilliant sunlight, exuberant flowers and vegetation (although still artificially watered...rainfall in Lima is nil all year round), and the clear skies means the pollution and smog are able to disperse and blow away on the breezes that cool the city, especially in Miraflores
and Barranco and areas near the ocean. I've found myself over the past few days thinking, "hey, I think I like Lima!" Well, that's all a good thing.
Last Supper with Cuy (Guinea Pig) on the plate
I can't say yet that I want to live here, but it's been very pleasant and I'm enjoying being wrong about it.
My flight from New York was delayed 2 hours there and I didn't get to Lima until almost 1 AM. By the time I cleared customs, retrieved my check in and arrived at the guesthouse where I had stayed before during my time in Lima, it was 2:30. They allocated me a very nice room, nicer than I had before with two beds, tv, small table, terrace, and private bathroom, all for the princely sum of $12 a night, with the understanding that if more guests came, I'd be relegated to a small room without tv or bath or other amenities. I have little fear. Since I've stayed here, I've seen no more than a handful of guests at one time, and sometimes I've been the only one.
Courtyard of the museum
It's almost as if the owners don't care to fill it up? I can think of many ways that they can get more business but what do I know ;) The girl that was managing it before, Rosangela, is not here anymore. I got along quite well with her and her fiance from South Africa, Etienne. They met while working in the U.S. and she is back home with her family outside of Lima, while he is in South Africa waiting for her to join him. They livened up the place and I became friends with them.
As nice as Lima might be and as much as I may have changed my feelings toward it, I don't intend to stay long. My plan is to get on the road south down the coast towards Arequipa
, stopping to see the famous Nasca lines on the way.
Plaza Bolivar outside of the museum
Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru and is known for the Colca Canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and a good place to see the mighty Condor fly. El Tumbi volcano smolders just outside the city, a constant and active warning and it can be climbed, but not without difficulty and a bit of danger. We'll see if I'm up to it. There is also a sprawling and well-preserved colonial convent within the city walls that I'm anxious to see. From there I'll go higher up to Cuzco, and the jumping off point to trek to Macchu Pichu. I'll need to acclimatize for a few days, but it's a justly-famous city with many treasures to see in the meantime. It's also gringo central of South America, so it's almost unavoidable that I'll be in the company of a lot of foreigners while I'm there. I don't mind. I meet great people on the trail. It's not your average stay at home type that ventures out and for every ignorant traveler, I've found that there are many more who are informed, curious, and make good company. Just yesterday I wandered into a bar with some TVs showing rugby, soccer and basketball, including the Cleveland Cavs game that we lost by a huge margin, and struck up a conversation with the German fellow sitting next to me. We talked and talked and he told me much about his father's life, how he was conscripted into Hitler's army and sent to the western front, then to Stalingrad where he was captured and barely survived in Siberia for another seven years. We talked about shifting boundaries, about the roots of modern Europe, about peoples and languages and cultures. It was so refreshing to talk for so long about so many interesting things. Before I left, he gave me his card. He is the director of the South American division of one of Germany's largest pharmaceutical companies and he told me if I ever needed anything, money, help, anything, to call him. He told me that in thirty years of living in Peru he never met an American as educated as me! I find that a bit hard to believe but he said in addition that I was the first American he ever met who had heard of Aachen, his home. I told him of course I knew of it, it was the seat of Charlemagne's empire and his throne is still preserved in the Aachen cathedral. Well, that was the final straw in his mind! I too felt something after that conversation. I felt that it would be a shame if I didn't teach because I think I have a gift for it and I should use it. I'm anxious to stop and do some teaching and volunteering, especially for the kids. It won't be European history, but the act of teaching is what I need, and to help in any way I can would be a great salve to me in my present state of mind.