Monday, September 1, 2008

14 August 2008

Lima ~

We arrived with little fanfare last night at Jorge Chavez International Airport. I was surprised to find the airport far newer and cleaner than Miami’s. Unfortunately, right from the start, luck was not on our side. Despite multiple attempts, I couldn’t get any money out of the ATM—and neither could Adam. Fortunately, we both had enough cash to take a cab to Miraflores, pay for a room, and buy a drink. After that point we were flat broke. Thanks Wells Fargo.

Our hostel in Miraflores—one of the more affluent neighborhoods of Lima—was situated right in the heart of the region, across the street from a large park. Upon entering, Adam and I opted to pay the extra dollar to have our own private room (a total of about $7). The room was about what you’d expect for the price. A bunk bed was built just for the room and occupied the entire room except for where the door opened. The room also reeked of BO because there was no outlet to fresh air. The only ventilation came from a small hole cut in the ceiling over the top bunk. Apparently, the hole went to the bathroom above the room, and throughout the first night Adam could see people’s urine splash down into the hole onto his bed. I enjoyed the room because it was pitch dark, allowing me to sleep—something I haven’t done much of lately. Adam loathes the room though for obvious reasons. For this reason, I won’t tell him that I found a pile of something lying on his bed that had fallen from the hole sometime today. Sorry Adam, it’s for your own good.

After checking in and seeing the hole for the first time, we proceeded up the rickety steps to the lounge. The lounge has some couches with a tv, a bar, and a stove. The corner of the room is exposed and open to the elements. I imagine that when it rains, water rushes down into the main hallway and really wreaks havoc. That’d further help explain the smell.

We had a beer at the lounge’s bar (a sticky piece of finished lumber far inferior to something I could build in 20 minute); and to me it tasted awesome. I was so happy to be on vacation, at my destination, having a beer without worries…Adam wasn’t feeling the same. Normally, I’d hate this beer, a mass produced water down lager, but given the circumstances, nothing could have been finer. After discussing the local alcohol with the tenets of the hostel, Adam and I ventured off to find some pisco, Peru’s native hard liquor.

Being in the ritzy part of town, there were numerous options; actually, there were too many. The street adjacent to our hostel was pedestrian only and just housed restaurants and clubs aimed at the western tourist. Many times in my various travels have I been singled out because of my assumed wealth (I’m white), but never like this. All the hostesses rushed from their perches and tried to get Adam and I to enter. We were being offered free drinks and were ensured a good ratio of girls. Random women were even grabbing us as we tried to push our way down the street, repeating “no”. We were hounded like celebrities because it was assumed we had money: little did they know that we had enough cash for one drink because Wells Fargo wasn’t being cooperative.

Even though we could only have one drink, it proved to be a good choice. We both had pisco sours. I was told it’d be the same as a whiskey sour, but I’d describe it as a frothy margarita made with egg whites and sugar. I was enjoying every minute of it, but I could sense that Adam was apprehensive about something.

That night, while we were laying our urine stained cell a top of a bouncing night club, I confronted Adam on his feelings. He confessed that he was distraught and overwhelmed. Having been through many, large Latin American cities, this is what I expected, and the poverty—sadly—hadn’t phased me. To me, Adam was truly experiencing the emotional ride that is to be expected when first encountering a much poorer place. He expressed some uncertainties, and all I could do was ensure how awesome it’d all be, especially after experiencing a transformation.

We awoke today needing to solve our money woes. After being rejected money from multiple sources, I finally got a hold of Wells Fargo and was able to convince them to give me some soles, Peru’s currency. In the process of contacting Wells Fargo, we ran out of money, and Adam actually had to wait at the store where we used the phone as I went to fetch money to pay the bill.

We spent the day doing my sort of travel, roaming the streets and occasionally stopping at a café for some tea or cola (Inca Kola in this case). Some highlights included a tour of some pre-Incan pyramids/ruins from 450 AD. The architecture fascinated me. Over 1,500 years ago, this group was designing buildings to be resistant to the numerous earthquakes that plague the region. Besides this, the tour gave good pre-Incan history of the area. In reality, like most places, the area has been conquered numerous times by imperialistic powers. The Incans were just the final group before the Spaniards to act as the occupiers.

Today I also did some alpaca browsing. I want to get an alpaca sweater, and they are definitely everywhere and cheap. However, I don’t want the extra wait, so I’ll have to delay the purchases. Instead, I’ll just carry the extra weight in food.

For dinner, we were taken by some random guy who we think was a drug dealer. I had got tired of saying “no” to people and so when someone started to inquire about a symbiotic relationship in learning each other’s languages, I said yes. He took us to a very authentic restaurant (there were no tourists there at least and the wall was only adorned with a simple picture of Jesus Christ) off the main drag. They kept giving us more food and beer without us ordering, and I feared a scam. However, the guy kept talking, and we kept eating. Eventually, he inquired on drugs and upon us saying no, he asked for money for a cab. We escaped with a good meal. Now I’m sitting in the hostel watching the newest Indian Jones. The movie takes place in Nazca, Peru. We just bought tickets to bus south tomorrow morning to the city before Nazca, Ica.

Photo Infos:
Photo I: Miraflores and Parque Kennedy. Our neighborhood while in Lima. (photo from Flickr)
Photo II: Huaca Pucllana. The pre-Incan ruins situated in the heart of Miraflores. (photo from Flickr)

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