Thursday, July 3, 2008


Recently back from Peru, it was the first time i have left the country. My friends don't travel too much, Atlantic city a few times a year. My parents don't travel too often, they go down south to see my uncles a few times a year. I had many expectations and many worries, and i had some of my ideas about the world change, how could they not. For the first time things i have only read about and watched on TV i was able to see for myself.

I was there for a week but it felt like a month. I saw the rich areas, the poor areas, and the third world poor areas. But no homeless people, maybe one. I feel lucky because I saw the country with a friend who was born and raised there. I was able to see the Peru from a perspective that many have not. But I wish I learned Spanish first.

Being in a foreign country and not speaking the language, and being with one friend who spoke Spanish 95 % of the time makes you listen more than usual. It was funny to hear my friend get mixed up sometimes and talk to me in Spanish, and his local family in English.

Rich Peru-is what i saw first, right from the airport, we went to family close to Lima, the capitol. There house looked just like middle class here, nice furniture, nice TV, nice bathroom, crystal figurines, etc. In Lima we went to a major mall which was just like Roosevelt field, except more busy, much more busy, and outside they had people selling homemade items from all areas of Peruvian culture. A little outside of Lima we saw this new, really fancy beach tourist attraction. It was a mall, with restaurants, on a wooden boardwalk, a few hundred feet above the ocean. Gorgeous, and the best part was this is where i heard the most English being spoken. When you are in a Spanish speaking country and you speak with one person in English, and all of a sudden you run into many English speakers, they feel like family.

The first thing that caught my eye was every house, store, or building, was surrounded by a tall wall or a tall metal fence. Every window had bars on it.

Poor Peru-This is where i stayed with my friend. at the end of a dirt road, a top a hill, which sucked climbing at the end of each day. What an Oder his house had. Even though we were in a poor area, chosica, some houses had nice marble tiles on the front wall of their house. At the end of his street was a dirt stair case that lead to houses that were built on a mountain. No TV, an electrically heated shower, which gave me an electric shock the first time bc i forgot to shut the electricity off before i shut the water off, note to self, try not to get shocked while in shower and wet.
The market is really cool and old school. For short trips you take a little motor scooter that is rigged with two seats in the back and covered for protection from the elements. At night some of the kids have neon lights, and spider web designs that light up, and techno music. To travel further you can take a normal taxi or a bus. For the taxi don't expect to be the only pick up, they as well as the bus stop for every person on the street to see if they need a ride. one trip into the highlands we took a bus for two hours and a car for half and hour, and we stuffed two people in the wagons trunk.

Another thing that you notice is the mountains, everywhere, most of where i was was in the middle of a valley. it was pretty gorgeous to wake up and seeing that every morning. And i was laughed at when i asked, "are those the Andes", no i was told, they are too small.

Third world poor- to get here, a town called chicklay, you take a two to 3 hour bus and taxi ride up a winding mountain pass into the highlands. One lane in each direction. Often our bus/taxi found itself behind a really slow 18 wheeler, so we inch into the oncoming traffic lane, to see if any cars are coming, and if we have enough time to go for it before there is a bend ahead that we cannot see around. Do i have to tell you we had a few close calls.

Our trip ends at 3700 meters, which by my numbers is about 11 thousand feet and it took me about two hours to stop feeling like crap from being up so high. The houses up here were not protected with high walls or metal bars. The walls and the ceiling of the house was sheets of steel, the toilet was a whole in the floor, with two bricks to use to squat, and a bucket of water outside to splash inside when done, also know as the third world flush. Dogs roamed the streets free, most of the time, stopping at home than running back out again. And the starts at night, wow, i have never seen anything like it.

The first trip up there we spend all night there, making homemade alcohol called chicha, talked, ate, drank coffee, and stronger stuff, and sat really really close to the fire bc it was feekin cold.
The second time we came up the highlands of chicklay, we hiked a mountain, and goddamn its hard to hike when you are already having a hard time just sitting at 11 thousand feet. The hike started out ok, than progressively became steeper , and the path grew narrower and closer to the edge. When we finally made it to the top i thought i would die. I never felt so shitty in all my life, yet i am so glad i finished the climb. I had two cups of coca tea, which greatly help my shitty feeling and we climbed down a few hours later. On the way up all i said to myself was i cannot wait to climb down, its gonna be easy, NOT. i have never been so focused and full of attention in all my life, well at least after the first time i slipped on the dry moving rocks, on to my ass, about three feet from the edge. I gave myself a 50-50 chance of falling right off, my legs so tight, gripping every step. I was so happy to finish, and could not wait to fall asleep that night.

The next day and one of the last days of my journey we went to Lima, off the beaten path, just think of Brooklyn to Manhattan , was to where we were to Lima. Where my friends cousins, from Lima, asked me if i wanted to try to walk through this bad area, where there was a high probability of getting robbed, cool, lets do it i say. Lucky us the town was street cleaning that day and they sent the military to help.

We got to see Lima's china town, and they do have damn good Chinese food, we went on two church tours, into the catacombs, and one church, St. Francis i think, had the oldest library in south America, from the 1500's, with gorgeous would work, and tile. We saw the presidents house, congress, the supreme court.

Going to Peru, here are some notes, the money is soles, 1dollar USA=2.70 soles, foods= anticuchos(grilled sliced cow hearts), ceviche, beef stir fry with french fries, boiled potato with cheese sauce, fresh cheese sandwich, inca cola soda, rotisserie chicken,
my most used word, was benitto, beautifull, taxi and bus don't ask how much , if you do they know your not from the area and they will charge extra, if your not sure, give em 5 soles, if its more they tell you if not you get change, local taxi's 2 soles, an hour an a half bus ride was 8 soles for two, and and hour and a half bus ride in a fancy bus was 17, ride to the airport, one hour, 75 soles,
when going to or from airport, do not use people on the street call a company in the phone book, this ensure legitimacy and better chance of safety and trust.

pictures on the way

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