Grime of Lima Centro
What a day! Little did I know setting out in the early afternoon that I would be involved in some heart-pounding excitement in the center...but let me back up. I woke up late after the long day and night Tuesday. I had already sent an email to Bruce Peru, the volunteer organization that I had agreed to start work with Wednesday morning. I told them that I just didn't feel that I wanted to stay in Lima
for a long time and that I needed to get away to the north for some sun and warmer weather and to see some things. I had been thinking about it for the past couple days and I was feeling homesick and starting to get depressed from the gray skies day after day, unremitting gray, and the fog of pollution that hangs everywhere.
Near the Protest
So I decided to make a move and go up north to visit some cities, beaches, archeological sites and then make my way throught the highlands up north, crossing over the cordillero blanco which is the spine of the Andes, and then down the eastern side to the last town and road and then take a boat down a tributary of the Amazon to reach Iquitos in the jungle. Just coming to that conclusion, that I can come back to Lima, that I can volunteer up north if I decided to stay in a place for a few weeks or more, and that it's ok to change plans while traveling, made me feel much better and cheered me up.
So I decided to stop researching and actually get out to see some of Lima's sites...museums, churches, parks, noteworthy attractions. I had forgotten about the teachers union protests going on and that the demonstrators had camped out in Lima since last week.
Demonstration by Teacher's Union
I was just starting to walk towards the center plaza when I saw people running and then one by one the shutters and gates of the shops along the street quickly were drawn down and the street started to empty. I saw a cloud in the next block up on the left and saw people running my direction further down the street. As the cloud disapated people started to drift back up the street and I followed. As I got closer to the intersection my eyes started to tear up a bit and sting and I realized it was a tear gas bomb that had been fired. By now I was in the thick of protest and there were chunks of concrete littering the intersection near the armored riot police vehicles. A bunch of people were yelling and chanting and the police had their tear gas guns armed and ready.
Armored Cars with Riot Police
I don't knon what possessed me to stay but I started filming the scene. A protester hurled a chunk of concrete at the armored car and I saw it swivel and suddenly people started to run and the guns swung around towards our direction. I quickly stopped filming and started running, my heart pounding and wondering if I'd be caught in something dangerous. Luckily they didn't fire and I didn't stay around to see what else might happen. I kept walking and eventually got clear of the protest. Later that night on the news I saw the whole demonstration and it wasn't peaceful. That was some excitement!!!
The melee started to thin as I made my way closer to the center and I headed for the opposite side of the Plaza de Armas since it was still closed, and on the opposite side were some interesting churches.
In the first, Santo Domingo, I saw the remains of Sts. Martin de Porres and Rose of Lima. A beautiful Baroque statue of St. Rose, was placed in front of the altar. The statue reminded me of the statues of Bernini and other Italian Baroque masters in Italy. Then I went to the church of St. Rose, built on the site of her family's house. The garden remains much how it was in her time, the 1500's. There were many plaques to read which recounted her life, her graces, visions, path to becoming declared a saint, and other interesting details. Unfortunately a cold, bone-chilling misty rain was falling the whole time that wormed its way under my skin, and the skies were dark gray. Pollution and noise of traffic was incessant and after such a long afternoon, I decided to try to head home, even in the bumper to bumper traffic.
Near the Protest
There is no order to the traffic, just a get ahead as best and fast as you can philosophy which can make for a very jarring and unnerving ride, especially hemmed in by other vehicles on every side. Our collectivo got a flat tire and the driver and fare collecting, destination-yelling guy put some air in it. But after a ways, they had to stop and give everyone their money back to catch a different bus because it was difinitely flat. I decided to stop at the Loki Hostel again today for some refreshment since I had such a good time the previous evening. I played a game of pool with some Dutch nurses on holiday and then our little group grew as some Americans joined us and said they were hungry. We all went out to eat, with my request that the place have a TV to watch the soccer game.
Near the Protest
A nice dinner of pasta with excellent Peruvian white wine (I never did get to see the bottle or find out what it was exactly) and some great conversation ensued and everyone decided to go out after going back to the hostel to change. The Dutch girls were toasting in Spanish, "para arriba, para abajo, para centro (clink of glasses), para dentro (down the hatch)"! The Colombian girl Nur was there having just arrived from her trip down south to see the famous Nazca lines from the air. We chatted a bit and then I said farewell and the group of us left for Barranco
to see if there was anything interesting to do. On our way out, a guy told us to check out the Dragon Club, and good thing, because when we got to Barranco, the Club street was totally dead.
We found the Dragon club on a side street and there was no sign. As anyone knows about clubs, having no sign means that the club is trendy and doesn't need to publish its whereabouts. It was the kind of place I normally don't like. Posturing people speaking very loud to be heard, a narrow room, downbeat/lounge-type music that seems to have no melody or beat, and clouds of cigarette smoke. The Dutch girls got in for free and in recompense bought each of us a beer! They were very nice and I enjoyed talking to them all evening. I talked to one of the Americans for awhile but eventually the noise, the shoving and lack of an inch of space, and the smoke got to me and I had to get out. I've never liked that kind of place... But it was fun overall and it was very nice to meet some fellow travelers and go out in a group.