As we sit in a small Miraflores studio apartment, I hear sounds of lively street full of small cars, mopeds and trucks rushing passed our window. With rapid bursts of signaling constantly persuading the drivers to hurry along and cab drivers signaling walker-by’s of their availability, the slightly congested yet fast moving flow of cars are almost never at a standstill. Its been barely 42 hours since our plane landed in an unfamiliar country. Most of the six hours of the connecting flight from Texas to Lima I spent trying to let myself absorb the reality of what is actually happening and periodically shifting in my seat as my buttocks become increasingly numb. Already separated from my wife by unexpected seating arrangement, I was left to deal with my anxiety and discomfort between two strangers.
What motivated us to let go of all that kept us tied down to a too familiar home or why Peru in particular, I can’t answer as of yet. Only a week ago I was living in a comfortable apartment, a well paying job with minimal worries, ready to take the next predictable step in life. Something inside me just didn’t agree with that statement, that life should be predictable nor that it should be lived as such. So, to throw ourselves out of the cycles that became way to comfortably uncomfortable, we threw all our stuff into storage, I quit my job and with what savings I had accumulated we headed to a place where challenge and new experience has become part of our new existence.
With our little adventure just beginning there were already challenges that led me to see what things in my life needed, put gently, my attention.I left very little time for us to pack and get ready. Thinking that only a week off of work would be enough time to cancel all our services, move all our things into a 10×10 storage room and whatever else came up, I dragged my poor wife, her mom and brother and my cousin into my world of procrastination.
After several days of running back and forth from the apartment to the storage room with a car full of stuff, the situation was becoming less and less amusing. My wife, a very understanding woman to a very reasonable degree, when the “degrees” ran out, so did her understanding and my safety. Sleep deprivation added to the mix and the seemingly adventurous process quickly shifter to a more darker and scarier experience.
Eight hours left till our flight and another two carloads of stuff waiting for the storage facility to reopen at 6AM. On the verge of hallucinations by exhaustion we move on to the next step, reorganize the quickly packed suitcases. Having the benefit of my cousin Eugene’s hospitality, we laid all of our suitcases on his basement floor only to realized that something wasn’t quite right. We counted our belongings and, at this point, not being sure about anything at all, especially our judgement, we began to evaluate the things we brought with us. We packed two large suitcases, two carry-on suitcases a backpack and a small duffel bag. All was present but one. This one realization was enough to send all of us into a hysterical laughter. Mind you, nothing was funny about the situation where we were already missing a suitcase before even leaving for our trip.
Once the hysteria died down and quite a bit of time spent analyzing where it could possibly be, we all got into the car, because none of us could be trusted by ourselves, we went back to the apartment. As we approached, my cousins newly discovered eagle eye vision kicked in and he calmly and confidently stated, “I see the suitcase”. As we approach the parking spot where the suitcases were loaded into the car, we discover the lonely carry-on patiently awaiting its discovery.
With nothing more required to completely loose our minds, we retreated back to my cousins home with only hopes of experiencing the sensation of a soft warm bed before the sun came up to welcomed a new day.
Two hours later I was up and out to drive the rest of the “stuff” to the storage room, vacuum the apartment, return the keys and head back for a five minute shower. Back at Casa de Ira & Eugene, Jen’ka was up and more then accommodating with breakfast ready and some herbal super duper ,don’t let me die of fatigue, tea.
After going through this process I have learned not only the value of planning and organization, the hard way, but also the incredible patience and kindness of my wife and cousin who, after being driven an inch past insanity, both smart and capable, did not devise a plan to bring me to a slow and miserable end.
Off we go…
As we landed my heart began to pound harder. Getting out of the plane, I felt a familiar rush of excitement and anxiety. We are not big travelers and with having the knowledge of the Spanish language at the level of a employee of a Taco Bell, it was no surprise we were a little nervous. A more amusing reaction was received from the guy issuing Visas. What I guess he asked was the length of time we were planning to stay in Peru and after hearing three months didn’t know what to make of that answer.
The rest of the immigration process was easy. A search dog was excitedly moving across the airport sniffing for learned smells and trying to please its master.
It stopped in front of a native looking man with a big backpack on the ground. The dog obviously sniffed something out and the officer searched the mans bags. After a short search, three large oranges were apprehended into a plastic bag and returned to the amused traveler.
About $20 and a half hour cab ride later, we were in front of an older four story building. We were greeted by a lady and her very tall son Rodrigo Jose. They seemed a bit nervous to meet us but very hospitable and with enough knowledge of the English language to be understood. The condo we rented is small consisting of a kitchen that opens up to an open area where there is a bed with a closet across by the wall.
Everything about the studio apartment was fine except the overbearing “old people lived a long time here” smell. We could bare the smell for a whopping one day before unleashing a major research project of how to get rid of the relentless odor and proceeded onwards. We began to tackle the issue as the poor glade plug-in was about to throw in the towel. We set out several bowls of vinegar, soaked cotton balls in vanilla extract and
created a concoction of mandarin peal, cinnamon sticks and a bag of cloves which we boiled and let the aroma spread across the apartment.I also proceeded to wipe down the walls with fabric softener sheets just for good measure, since I was convinced that this was the origin of the problem.
With the steam from the mix still working its charm we went out to dinner. When we returned the aroma in the room was more than satisfying and the apartment became that much more welcoming.
The apartment has a great location with a seafood restaurant slightly to the left of the entrance to our building and a pastry shop under our window sending waves of aromas into the room every morning.
The portions are huge and the food is AMAIZING! To start we were given a shot of seafood broth. Marina enjoyed both portions:) Even at a seafood place and with a menu I couldn’t understand, I was able to order a vegan meal that was o sooo good. The tea was exquisite as well.
Today I ventured out to finally see the ocean. It was a long walk but so worth the effort. After walking through narrow streets and checking back with Google Maps to make sure that the blue dot was headed towards the body of water, I saw and felt the magnificence of the view.
The pier behind me featured sixty or so surfers on each side catching the waves.
Larcomar is a big tourist attraction for shopping and dining.
When I arrived an old man came up to me and asked me where I was from. This became the theme of the day, where periodically I had different locals come up to me to ask for money. A woman and her five year old son followed me for some time. While the little boy tugged at my pant leg, she kept asking me for money to feed her kid. I finally gave in and reached for some change in my pocket. Peruvian Soles have some coins worth roughly $3. Lets just say it wasn’t my best move yet. Later a lady came up asking for some charity she was representing. The old man I mentioned earlier handed me a small, hand made, Peruvian pin ornament stating that it was a gift. He then offered to give me the tour of the local area followed by an invitation to coffee (that would be a “gift” from me I assume) and talk. He proceeded to make other offers even marijuana. When I politely refused and told him I just wanted to relax and enjoy the view, he asked for me to give him a “gift” in the form of money for the “gift” he gave me earlier. I offered him one SOL to which he said that his “gift” costs two SOLES. He conveniently had change for the five Soles I still had left in my pocket after an earlier exchange. Another lesson to learn…boundaries.
I followed the coast line to a series of benches and a park. The atmosphere seemed very relaxing and it was easy to grab a hot chocolate or a cappuccino at a small cafe, sit on a bench and enjoy the view of the ocean.
I noticed a man who hopped over the fence to enjoy a nap under the tree, which seemed all too normal.
As I continued to walk I saw a large statue portraying a couple kissing on the ground. It is located in El Parque del Amor or “Lovers Park”, where many young couples were comfortably absorbed with each other and showing much affection not commonly seen in the states. The young men gently caressed the faces of their ladies laughing and whispering sweet nothings into their ears. It was a lovely sight out of romantic novel.
Over these scenes I saw a constant flow of para-gliders catching the drift of the wind and navigating by the side of the buildings and over the cliff.
As I was leaving the park I was stopped by a young local guy who also asked me where I was from. He also had things to offer including ethnic necklaces and asked me if I wanted to party. When I told him that I was not interested in partying he seemed confused. He seemed even more baffled when he heard that I was out of money as well. At this point he became agitated and asked me “where did it all go?”. Respecting his concern I told him that I had several people ask me for money and now I had none left. In less then a moment his friendly interest in me shifter, he murmured “bullshit”, turned around and walked off. With nothing more to offer to my local friends, I reverted back to my loyal guide Google and followed the streets to find my way back to the humble studio apartment where my wife was patiently awaiting my return.
What a beautiful day it was today. I started the day by making breakfast for my wife while turning on a Peruvian radio station. I first attempted to turn on Pandora as I would often due at home, but instead of hearing requested melody I discovered this amusing message on the screen:
Regardless, the radio station was great, filled with songs I have never heard before. Not only were the songs in Spanish but many in English, that I assume, were produced in different part of the world. I also got to try the famous “Coco tea”. The tea is illegal in the states because of an apparently likely scenario that people will start making cocaine out of the leaves of the tea. In Peru and other South American countries know to have rejuvenating properties.
After breakfast I strapped my magical little money belt and was ready to go out. When I first saw these I was amused that anyone could really be using these until I was was standing in line to get on the plane to Peru and noticed that almost everybody in line had some sort of a pouch to keep their valuables. After getting situated at the apartment I asked our host where she keeps her money when she goes out. Much to my surprise she pulls out the same pouch that I purchased before out trip. At this moment I thought that if the locals carry their cash in their pants I should probably follow suite.
Overcast is a normal part of the weather in Lima but today was different. The sun was out most of the day and we walked along the coast and seeped in every bit of it.
While walking on the streets towards the shore I periodically spotted old American cars. Most are in good shape but a rare find.
We first visited the Larcomar where Marina had a chance to try to satisfy her craving that rarely appears for a double whopper. She was happy to discover a Burger King amongst many other restaurants, many of which could be found in the States.
I’ve often wondered if something as popular as a burger tasted differently in a different country. In this case, it was a total disappointment. Marina reported that the burger tasted more like a turkey burger and not even a good one.
Despite the crappy burger we continued to enjoy the sun and went on for a long stroll along the coast.
In the sky there was a great number of para-gliders enjoying the even flow of the wind currents. An activity I am considering more and more each day.
We continued down the the long set of stairs that took us to the bottom of the cliff to the beach.
At the bottom of the stairs there was a group of teenagers playing guitar and enjoying life. This was so different then what I was used to in the states where this type of activity was no often seen. In the states, the kids form group bands, but this is often shadowed with feeling rejected or rebellion. In this case, the group seemed very relaxed and in their element having nothing to prove by their activity. There was no tension I often felt from people where I spent so many year of my life.
When we got to the beach the sun was beginning to set and reflected by the waves of the ocean.
The beach was full of large round stones that covered the surface. I always thought that a rocky beach was counterproductive to a comfortable experience but I found no discomfort sitting on some of the bigger stones and watching the crashing of the waves.
The beach was full of people and everyone seemed very relaxed and present. There was no hassle, no rushing or fussing or noise. Even though the beach was full of people it was a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Surfers were enjoying the waves in the distance and a few swimmers were courageous enough to get into the cold water without a wetsuit. Even thought the water was fairly cold it didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. Everything kind of didn’t make sense in a way where things that would ordinarily be something to avoid, like a beach full of people or the cold ocean, now seemed inviting.
Further down the beach, hardcore surfers were active in their craft. Several old school VW buses that were often used by surfers in the past were parked on the beach. It seemed, what I would only imagine, California was like. Everyone seemed friendly and a middle aged man with leathery skin from years out in the sun offered me his card for surfing lessons. This is also something I have considered while I’m here.
I honestly enjoyed the easy going experience of simply waking and enjoying my environment for four hours. This is something that I haven’t experienced in a long long time if ever. The restrictions that I felt before from my work schedule and overbearing tension that constantly followed me is now starting to ease of with each day.
Today was a simple Monday, just the way we like it. We spent most of the morning and mid day listening to an audio book “Rich dad, poor dad”. It’s a great book and helped challenge some of my beliefs about money. Its so nice to be able to slow down and just enjoy doing something I wouldn’t usually take the time to enjoy in my old hectic schedule. Our belief about what should be and was is possible is shifting. We are considering staying a bit longer here, but it will require a different lifestyle in Peru. I got in touch with a friend of mine from the State who spends amble amount of time each year in Cusco, Peru. Hearing her perspective on living in Peru was very refreshing and helped see things from a different perspective. She explained that if we lived more like Peruvians, we could make our dollar stretch further. By eating at the small local eateries, telling the vendors that we live in Peru instead of visiting, will cut the price and our spending significantly. When we move from Lima to to Cusco next month, our Peruvian connection assured us we will have help getting acclimated to the new location with minimal spending. After speaking to her I felt a renewed sense of excitement that filled my being. I felt cared for, supported and given direction. This, I believe, is the fundamental set of needs anyone would appreciate in order to have any inkling of confidence. It was a gift I truly value.
After speaking to my friend I was inspired to “live like a Peruvian. I contacted our hosts who rented us the apartment and asked for a local eatery we could investigate. Rodrigo was quick to respond with a location and also more details then I expected. Not only did he share the value we would get at the restaurant but also the owners name and his relatives name who lived next to the apartment we are staying in. He said that a lunch special included a three course meal for around 8 soles or slightly less then $3 per person. Considering how good the Peruvian food is, I think I can dig living like a Peruvian for a while. The local restaurant Rodrigo recommended will be tomorrows venture however. Today we went out and found a cool little Mediterranean Restaurant on one of the busier streets. This was far from a “local” choice and since the menu we received was in English the prices were also not local. The food was exquisite with the best hummus I have ever had and with a falafal sandwich to die for. Marina had a delicious Fettuccine Fruit de la Mer or fruite of the ocean. The cost for the meal was still below the US standards at roughly $25 with tip.
What I value most about this trip is the time I am spending with my wife and her honesty and the care she expresses for me. A trip like this brings out many emotions that have not seen the light of day for decades and require a compassionate environment to be expressed freely. I actually have time to devote to getting to understand myself, my fears, my bag of repressed feelings I never allowed myself to acknowledge. No matter what comes up, we get through the painful feelings and then revert back to our more familiar childish state of being.
It’s 12:58am and it was 11/07/2014 when I started writing the blog about an hour and a half ago. As I was nearing completion of my literary creation for the day, I attempted to add a few pictures to the nearly finished work. All of the sudden, all of my newly written blog disappeared with the remaining bit of sanity I had left. One more painful reminder that periodically saving my work will prevent endangerment of innocent bystanders…Save. Ok, here’s a slightly different version I’m still capable of providing.
So as you guys have probably noticed, it’s been about two weeks since the last post. And for good reason. I have “purposely” deleted several depressing posts I’ve written during prior days. Apparently not everything about an adventurous excursion to a foreign country is all fun and games.
Following my last post we spent several days sitting at home with only periodic outing to the supermarket and once to dinner. It turns out that after being stuck in a cycle of work/home, work/home for years gets you, well stuck in a cycle of not knowing how to spend your time when you finally get some to spend the way you want. On top of that, its also a bit stressful feeling like a confused monkey every time you’re spoken to everywhere you go. My Spanish is WAY worse then the people asking me questions in the supermarket, a restaurant or the fruit stand think it is. Deer in the headlights look followed me often, especially the first few weeks. I reverted back to my early day’s when I first arrived to the States as a child, forgetting every inkling of English I learned in school. It was back to, smile and nod all the way. I also decided that if I’m asked a question, just say “si” and “see” what happens. If the person starts doing something I don’t agree with, I just apologize and tell them “no” but at least I’ll know what they meant. Marina still doesn’t think that’s a good approach and I’m still not smart enough to listen to her….”Save”.
Our last few weeks were interesting to say the least. After finally getting out of the house, I decided to go down to the beach and take more pictures. One of the plans I had made before coming to Peru is that I will explore my interest in photography and actually take some pictures and play with them a bit. So, off I went to the beach at sunset and took some awesome pictures I will share at a later time. While on the beach, I continued to admire the surfers that seemed to have so much fun catching the waves as the last of the sun was still providing some warmth and light for their enjoyment. For some reason, I’ve been hesitant about learning to surf. There are plenty of people on the beach offering lessons but getting over my anxiety of going out there and trying it for myself seemed slightly out of reach. A veteran surfer with long silver hair introduced himself as Beto and handed me his card as I was taking a picture of one of the old graffiti-ed up VW vans used to keep the surf boards.
To pass up this opportunity to learn to surf, I simply would never forgive myself. So the next day with the support of my lovely wife, I ventured out to the beach.
A white, lost looking dude walking on a beach, apparently could only mean one thing, he is in need of surfing lessons. So every guy I passed offered me his services. I was determined to find the silver haired veteran surfer named Beto whom I had met the day before. In an attempt to help me find exactly who I was looking for, several guys came up and listened intently as I was trying to describe Beto to them. My very broken Spanish, simple English and a little game of charades finally did the trick. Ah, Beto, si. Yay, I was ready to go with any other instructor by that time but the effort was given and I was curious what would happen next. Ah, he is not here today but I call his friend, don’t worry he’s a good guy.
Ah, great. I wasn’t sure about Beto and now I’m waiting to meet his friend who’s apparently a “good guy”. About ten to fifteen minutes later a guy pulls up on a motorcycle. He seems to be in his mid fifties, about the same age as Beto. He greets us and asks if we speak Castilian. I could understand that much. A moment later I hear a familiar language and was relieved to hear that his English was good enough to understand and with little effort the communication gap in my life was getting smaller. He introduced himself as Ricardo Garcia but that I could simply call him as Doc. Later, I found out from Beto, who himself works at a pharmaceutical laboratory, that Ricardo was actually a psychiatrist by trade. How appropriate in my case.
I was handed a wetsuit and was led, by Doc, to a stone bench where he was to give me my first lesson in surfing. After a literally, five minute explanation of how to lay on the board, paddle slowly so I don’t get tired, wait for the waive to push the board, count to four and pop up by bringing my right knee out first, I was handed over to a young guy named Richy. Ricky was to be my guide into the ocean and one to introduce me to my first wave.
The Pacific Ocean seemed a bit stronger and more violent then the Atlantic Ocean I was used to. The water was freezing and the stone covered beach was difficult to keep my balance as the receding waves rolled the stones right from under my feet. It didn’t help that the beginners board I was carrying was heavy and seemed to be made for a baby giant.
Finally I was in the water, on the board and wobbling myself towards Ricky, who was already ways ahead. I was able to keep up and align myself by his side as he studied the oncoming waves. He signaled me to turn my board around. I managed to turn my board about half way around before he yelled, paddle, paddle, paddle. Not knowing exactly what to do, in panic, I started to paddle my arms attempting to straighten out the board before the arrival of the wave. My timing was off and I was quickly knocked off the board and felt the sting of the cold ocean. The wetsuit was a few sizes too big and the freezing water felt like daggers as it ran down my back inside the wetsuit. After struggling a bit, I managed to climb back onto the board. Ricky, with a look of concern on his face looked at me, paused and in complete honesty asked me if I knew how to swim. What a great time to ask me that question, I thought to myself and nodded.
Aligned with the beach and ready to take on the next wave I heard the familiar instruction. Paddle, paddle, paddle. I swung my arms along the sides of the board like a nervous seal who is trying to move himself while on the shore and paddled as hard as I could. I felt the unexpectedly hard push of the water and started to count. One, two, three, four, I turned my right knee out, pushed my hands against the board and was on my feet before I realized what happened. I’m surfing, I thought but was quickly reminded of the cold water as the wave washed over me and my board. I think that’s whats called a “wipe-out”…”Save”.
I was not giving up. In position again I was ready to get it right. Ricky advised me that I was too far up on the board and the fellow surfer who was really excited about the fact that I actually got on my feet, told me that I should bend my knees once I’m up. Here we go, I thought to myself as I heard paddle, paddle, paddle for the third time. This time I felt more ready when the wave started to push the board. I counted, popped up, kept my knees bent and finally got to enjoy the amazingly freeing experience of surfing my first wave.
Ricky delivered me back to Doc when he appeared out of nowhere looking super comfortable on the board and moving fast and steady. Not only did Doc appear by my side no matter how far away I saw him a moment before, but he was able to push my board right in the way of the wave with lots of strength and in the perfect position to be carried of and ridden. Just as fast as he appeared, as if a mysterious heroin he was gone. I guess the lesson was over.
Back on shore Doc appeared out of nowhere, there he was. He came up to me, shook my hand and made a few comments about my surfing and my endurance. I felt sincere interest from him. He mentioned that he was looking forward to riding some waves with me next time and pointed to the far right side of the coast where I saw some surfers in the distance. I couldn’t understand what I felt from him that day until I got back to the apartment. It was simple honesty and care that were two human traits that made such an impression on me and made that whole experience that much more memorable.
Some other crazy things happened during the past few weeks that I’ll share later, but for now I have to call it a night and hopefully get some sleep…”Save”.