Being no stranger to Lima’s winters, I expected and was prepared for the typical fog & mist that hugs the Pacific Ocean and hovers above all limeños at this time of the year. To my surprise and delight, on the morning after my arrival, the skies had parted like Moses’ Red Sea, and a brilliant sun teased us all, reminding us that it still exists.
Having announced to my family long ago of my impending arrival, they had organized a “welcome home” party in true Peruvian style, with lots of food, music, dancing, and the quintessential Pisco Sour (read: several Pisco Sours). I am so grateful for my family’s show of support and love – I feel truly welcome and look forward to all the moments we’ll share during the next few weeks.
I was just beginning to get used to the returning grey skies, when I was shaken to the core. Lima experienced a 5.4 earthquake, which according to the Richter scale may not be earth-shattering, but this particular earthquake packed a punch. It was sustained and came with a lot of noise. I didn’t know what to do – I ran back and forth in my apartment, and then went to the balcony and observed people on the street. Everyone had a wild look about themselves, running around like inebriated mice. In the end, all I could do is pray the damn thing would end and the apartment wouldn’t fall at my feet, with me in it. This was a topic of conversation among limeños for days. Some people recommend you stay put – others say you need to run out to the street ASAP. Hopefully, there won’t be another one while I’m here.
Getting acclimated to Lima has its challenges – that is, for those who are used to getting everything they want at the snap of their little fingers, or those with unrealistic expectations. That doesn’t include me, of course. I’ve always told myself that as a world traveler, I’m patient, understanding, realistic, and a go-with-the-flow type of person. Hmmmm… Well, I realize that is not 100% true. At least, it hasn’t been during these last few days. I have been, at times, incredulous, impatient, and irritated. I’ve rolled my eyes more than once while waiting in line at the bank, at the gas station, at the pastry shop. Why is everyone not in a rush? I’ve already demanded to speak to the supervisor! while on the phone with the internet company. I have been laughed at when I asked for Wild Tuna at the supermarket. And organic chicken? “Madam, all chicken is organic – they are living organisms.” Okay, thanks.
By the way, here’s how many kinds of tuna there are available – they come right out of the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. I had my cousin, who was with me, ask for Wild Tuna – tuna salvaje. That’s just a literal translation from English. The face of the supermarket’s employee said it all.
I’m also re-learning a little etiquette. I am being reminded that you do not speak to others without a proper introduction “Good day, can you please tell me/help me find… – or “Excuse me, can you please… .” Directness in speech is considered rude. I’ve come to find out, apparently, that I’m one rude person. (I’ve been told by others here that Americans are generally seen as impolite, i.e.: too direct). Locals attribute our manner of speaking to us lacking manners. Knowing both sides, I think this is a misconception – talk about minor, but important differences in culture. I think directness in speech is necessary and appreciated… and it saves time. Just saying.
What were my expectations? I know I know better. I certainly didn’t come here to be a prima donna. This last week has been a revelation for me. Having lived in the U.S. for most of my life now, I’ll be honest and admit that l’ve become impatient – even demanding. I’ve had to constantly remind myself that I’m living in a different country. I’m an extended visitor here, that’s all. There are some muscles I’m flexing that I haven’t had to use in a while: patience, empathy, thoughtful politeness, understanding, more patience, and then some more.
This is a different country, folks. People move to the beat of their own internal drums. I am painfully aware that their beats are not in tempo with mine. Not yet. My sense of urgency seems to be out-of-place here. For example: I needed a stable and instant connection to the internet. It has taken me a week to establish some acceptable form of connectivity. Speak to a supervisor? Huh? “He is not available, ” I’ve been told. All I can do now is laugh – and assimilate. Quickly. It’s all good.
In other news, I’m almost done with my second week of classes at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. There are about 14 students in our group, almost half of them come from different countries in Latin America and, like me, they have relocated to Lima temporarily, while they immerse themselves in the art of Peruvian cooking. We’ve learned several theories and techniques, and have practiced several different dishes, including the world-known ceviche and its leche de tigre (the potent tiger’s milk); Jamón del País (to make butifarras – a slow-cooked pork used to make a typical Peruvian sandwich); Carapulcra – made with dehydrated Andean potatoes); a southern Peruvian appetizer, Cauche de queso, and a rustic dish from Cusco, Adobo Cusqueño, slow-cooked stew of pork, red wine – and dark beer.
In the next few days, I will have to replicate these dishes at home – so I promise to post recipes and photos soon.
Also, next week, I will be hitting up a few markets for local hand-made goods and bazaars for organic produce, Andean grains and legumes. Also, I’m looking to score some fresh fish and take it off the hands of the fishermen rowing in their catch from the Pacific Ocean, at el muelle in Chorrillos.
For now, I’ll leave you with some photos of the organic bazaar, Bioferia, that sets up every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Parque Reducto No. 2 Av. Benavides y Via Expresa, Miraflores. I took just a quick peak, but I liked what I saw and will return with more time. If you’re in Lima, this market is not to be missed. You can find organic fruits, vegetables, 100% organic cotton clothing, hand-made paper and wood products, coffee, quinoa, prepared vegan and vegetarian foods, honey, essential oils – even a nun selling tamales.