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Archive for February, 2010

Moving In

Hey folks. Sorry that my blog’s been sorely overlooked for the past 2 months, but I’ve been adjusting to life in Lima- living with the in-laws. I write this entry with the sound of children screaming in the background. I’m in my room. In a house made of cement. The floors are concrete. You have to wear shoes everywhere you go. My fan hums steadily in the background. I’ve put newspaper on my lap to prevent the heat from my laptop from burning my legs. It’s hot here. And grey. Except for when it’s sunny.

With the exception of the days I go to the beach (which totals 1 in the month I’ve been here) I prefer the grey days.

When I’m not looking for a job, I’m busy playing the role of Atreyhus’s tail. Where he goes, I go. Maybe if we were living in Miraflores I’d have a little more freedom. There, the streets are open and there are many restaurants, shops, and cafes. There, I can walk comfortably. But not here. Not in Callao. The other day I walked to the nearest Plaza Vea, which is a 10-minute walk. At one point, every car that was stopped at a stoplight honked their horn and whistled at me. It’s not flattering. The constant attention coupled with Atreyhus’s exaggerated worrying when I go out on my own, make me hesitant to walk the streets. The center of Lima is about a half hour bus ride from here. Miraflores is an hour.  And I only sort of know how to get there. Life in Callao is definitely different than the life in Lima foreigners from expatperu.com are always talking about.

But it’s not all bad. Callao’s pretty nice. There are carefully planted trees separating double- laned streets, open vegetable markets and a supermarket nearby.  Small bakeries, pharmacies, and Internet cafes line the streets. People live in square houses with flat roofs that are guarded by metal gates. Young boys stick their shirtless browned torsos out of the windows to see what’s going on down below. The smell of browned garlic escapes the windows as mothers prepare lunch.

Our neighbor makes the best tamales in town. Atreyhus knows just about everyone on the street, and they’re getting to know me, too.  Just the other day when I was about to be ambushed by a group of kids with water balloons (it’s carnavales time, again), Atreyhus’s friend spotted me and escorted me to my house (a block away) in the safety of his car. His sisters know where to go for everything. Want to buy fresh fish? Go see Walter at the Dos de Mayo market. Want to but hair products? Go to Santa Rosa. They don’t jack up the prices like they do in the supermarkets. Want to go to Miraflores? Center of Lima? San Miguel? His sisters can tell me 10 different buses that’ll take me there. People drop by without notice. I go in to take a shower and everyone’s having breakfast. I come out and Tia Chela’s dropped by for a visit. Or La Ballena’s here, an eccentric family friend who used to drink and do drugs, but has recently found god.

In a way I’m thankful that I’m experiencing a Lima that not too many foreigners are exposed to.  My experience is no foamy, milk- filled Starbucks latte. Here, we drink our coffee strong, with all the grit and grinds that come with it.

But sometimes I long for the squeaky- clean Miraflores life. Miraflores is the manifestation of Peruvian capitalism and modernity.  The sidewalks are clean and straight. The streets are wide and freshly painted. Traffic cops rise up through throngs of noisy cars in small circular platforms from which they blow their whistles. Large, new buildings line the streets, most of them institutes of some sort, offices, or restaurants. There’s Starbucks, sunglasses shops, baby stores, and large Walmart-like stores such as Tottus, Plaza Vea, or Wong’s. This is where the tourists come. This is where the foreigners and rich Peruvians live.  I wouldn’t have to take a bus anywhere if I lived there. It’s all there: work, shopping, and entertainment. It’s even got the beach.

But is all that luxury and convenience worth giving up the everyday culture I’m experiencing here in Callao? I’m not so sure. Just now, Atreyhus’s little nephew Zahir wobbled into my room (he’s almost 2), climbed up onto my bed, and stole Flop-Flop, my stuffed bunny rabbit from when I was a kid. Then he ran away with it, giggling all the while. He’s precious.

Maybe I’ll be singing another tune once I find a job, which will probably be in Miraflores, and am commuting an hour back and forth every day. But I guess we’ll see. Atreyhus and I came here to stay with his family and save some money. And that’s what we’ll be doing, for as long as we can stand living in this cement jungle.

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