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The Sacred Valley

The day after our visit to Cusco we had a trip through the Sacred Valley that ended in a train trip to Aguas Caliente, which is a popular way station on the trip to Macchu Pichu. The basic routes from Cusco to Macchu Pichu for what many call the Gringo Trail (some of the locals express their thoughts on the issue with the commonly seen graffiti tag Inca$). I need to begin by declaring, in all honesty, that I don’t have the language to describe the natural beauty and power of the Sacred Valley of the Incas (Valle Sagrado de los Incas). Give me the chaos of a city; I can (sorta) describe that scene. Maybe it’s my affinity for steel and concrete, but whenever I try to write about nature I feel like somebody cribbing the best (or the worst) from the Naturalists. Yet even for me, as someone who feels the futures presented by cyberpunk fictions are not all that dystopian, the Sacred Valley was beautiful. Purely and absolutely beautiful. Without a doubt it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced.

Sacred Valley, near Pisac

I’ve always had an affinity for the idea that beauty, especially natural beauty, has a purposiveness without purpose. Basically, this means we that normally we can divine object’s purpose due to the goals or activities that object is supposed to achieve. Yet, an elemental part of the joy we experience when looking at beautiful objects found in nature we feel that they have a purpose—since they have the a symmetry and organization of aesthetic elements or qualities—but in reality the object has no discernable purpose geared towards aesthetics. A wonderful valley is not designed for its aesthetic qualities, but is the product an ongoing process of natural occurrences. Natural beauty, for me, creates a frame where all the elements are composed for the vista, the view, yet I know, deep down, that it is just a happenstance of biological development. It produces a feeling that “damn that’s purty” without being designed to be “damn purty.”

Pisac Market

The first stop was the opening to the Sacred Valley, which provided a great view of the entire landscape. It was a designated stop along the Gringo Trail where many of the tour buses unload and people take pictures. Like any stop on the Sacred Valley that attracts tourists, this area was packed with women and their children selling various trinkets or posing for photos (note: if you take pictures of any locals, be expected to pay for the photo). Every site along the Sacred Valley has its own economy of tourist-centric merchandise, basically various Inca themed textiles, hats, and curios. The view from the is cliff overlooking the valley was tremendous, it had a sense of unreality to it that made it seem like it was some painting transposed into the technicolor of real life. The day of our visit, it was a bit misty and overcast, which provided a great background to the mountains and river. It was amazing.

 

From this stop, we travelled to a Pisac, a small town (in the Sacred Valley, they all seem like small towns) with wonderful Incan ruins. Pisac, in relation to the town, is a nice pueblo village with a decent number of restaurants and a thriving market. As a part of our trip, we visited a jewelry store for a little presentation about jewelry craft in the Sacred Valley and how to spot fake silver. Like any tourist-centric destination, the Macchu Pichu-Cusco-Sacred Valley is a haven for cheap knock-offs of the typical handicrafts of the local people. If you take a trip to Macchu Pichu-Cusco-Sacred Valley, expect to hear people talk about how their sweaters or caps are real baby Alapaca and soandsos sweaters are “Maybe Alapaca.”

Pisac Ruins

The ruins of Pisac are stone houses and temple built directly into the mountainside. Also, it has one of my favorite features of Incan architecture, the terracing of the mountainside. It’s an impressive site, but pales in comparison to some of the other mountainside buildings constructed by the Incans. Quite a few Incan ruins are built on the mountainside, so in order cultivate enough crops the Incas terraced the mountains. When we visited the ruins of Pisac, it started to pour down rain. One of the most interesting elements of Pisac, and the Sacred Valley as a whole, was verdant character to it all. Everything is green on green, with a slate grey sky hanging close to our heads.

 

Chicha

From Pisac, we had a brief stop at a local bar know for its chicha. Chicha is a sweet fermented drink made from a traditional fermentation process. I already knew that the Incas used spit to help the fermentation process, however, I was a chicken and didn’t ask the proprietor of the bar if she still followed this tradition. Oh well, it tasted fine. Although chicha does have a very mild alcoholic percentage, in order to give the drink some punch many locals mix chicha with beer (Cusquena Dark seemed to be the choice the day we visited). Chicha has the taste of fruit juice, but the fermentation process does alter the flavor in an unusual (for foreigners) way, as it doesn’t remotely taste like wine. If pressed, the closet thing to chicha would probably be a lambec or one of the many fruit-flavored craft beers. Also, it’s quite different from the chicha morada that you find all over Lima.

The last major stop for the day was Ollantaytambo. If I thought that Pisac was an impressive ruin built into the side of a mountain, the ruins of Ollantaytambo were fantastic and exceeded the bar set by Pisac. There are two major parts to Ollantaytambo, the large terraced temple that stretches high up the mountain and a series of buildings carved into the opposite mountainside, and they sit even higher then temple and are perched on a dizzyingly steep angle. While standing on the left side of the valley and looking up from the top of the terraced temple, you can see the large storehouses, which were built to store grains and other perishables, and the house of the engineer of Ollantaytambo.

Ollantaytambo

The house of the engineer is build basically on top the third massive monument in Ollantaytambo: the face of Tunupa. Built on the more severe of the two mountains are the houses and, incredibly, this face of Tunupa, a mythical messiah figure to the Incas, juts out from the side of the mountain. Tunupa was a blonde haired and blue-eyed figure that helped the Incas unify and, before disappearing, promised to return to the Incas to bring about a golden time. It didn’t happen. Instead, a bearded Spaniard came and, in his own way, transformed the society and community of the Incas. There is a substantial debate among experts as to whether or not this face was carved by the Incas or just a happy byproduct of nature. Either way, it adds another spectacular level to the site.

Ollantaytambo

When you walk up the steps of Ollantaytambo you are provided with a great view of the entire archeological site. First, you get to experience more the insanely accurate walls of the Incas, with stones that fit perfectly together without the use of mortar, like a giant heavy Tetris game played by the gods. Also, according to our guide, many of the large smooth stones that make of temple are of Ollantaytambo come from a quarry many kilometers away, which means the stones were hauled one helluva distance. Second, you also get a wonderful view of the town and the valley as well. For any trip to the Sacred Valley, I would highly recommend a trip to Ollantaytambo.

We probably spent a good hour or more at Ollantaytambo, and it was a wonderful experience. Like much of the trip, hiking up these monuments, along with the pressures of the altitude, really took a lot out of our group. Once we all packed on to the train, it was a relief to sit down and relax. In the next post, I’ll talk about Macchu Pichu and how my experience of the beautiful became an experience of the sublime.

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Cusco

This will be the first in a series of posts about my vacación to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and así sucesivamente (ugh, Spanglish is for everyone). The university is on break so, like many Peruvians, I went on a trip with friends and family. Our group was relatively small and was pretty diverse in terms of age, with a range of 30 to 65+. This trip was the capstone to almost a month of visitors that turned my apartment into a makeshift hostel. So, while my level of great experiences with great people increased, there was also a concomitant drop in productivity (including writing for this space). However, despite the raging academic guilt that is often present in my head when I spend any time not directly related to producing work, I wouldn’t change a thing (with a special shout out to Karen, Steve, and Bailey!).

The trip began very early in the morning, as we all stumbled, like bleary-eyed drunks, into a van at 4:30 am. From there, it was, mercifully, a quick trip to the airport, which was surprisingly busy for such an early time in the morning. I’m told that Lima’s airport is busy late at night/early in the morning due to the winds off the Andes; it causes dangerous conditions for outgoing flights. The flight to Cusco, which was the first step on our trip, was quick and painless.

Cusco has many of these charmingly narrow streets

Cusco is an energetic little town tucked up in the mountains with charmingly narrow streets and an abundance of hostels, pubs and restaurants. Cusco is, and yet not, a resort town; yes, much of the industry of the town revolves around the tourist trade, but the town still has a rough-around-the-edges feel. It’s a town that appears geared towards backpackers, not jetsetters. Like most of Peru, the weather really damages the town, as rain, earthquakes and the altitude wears down buildings, treating the concrete to one crushing blow after another. My guess is that you either like this beaten-down charm or you don’t. I think our group was split.

Central Plaza

Truthfully, we didn’t spend much time in Cusco and most of our first day was spent acclimating to the altitude. Any travel book or website will tell you about the horrors of the altitude in Cusco, and they’re all right. Every single one of them. It’s no joke. I don’t think I really appreciated the changes to my body caused by the severity of the differences in altitude between Cusco and Lima. Not only was I often out of breath, but also my legs ached and I had stomach cramps. I tried to follow the rules provided by various travel sites, such as drinking plenty of water and purposefully walking at a slower pace, but I still felt pretty much like how Mickey Rourke looks. In other words, I was a big bag of mashed-up asshole.

Our tour of Cusco began with the town’s main plaza—the Plaza de Armas—and the main cathedral, Santo Domingo. As anyone familiar with Latin culture can attest, the plaza and the cathedral are always connected, forming a conjoined space that represents the merger of a community’s secular and spiritual interests. Cusco’s plaza is one of the more charming ones I’ve encountered: compact and lively. Outside of Santo Domingo, there is another impressive cathedral, Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus, in the plaza. Both cathedrals are best viewed from the second stories of the many pubs and bars that encircle the plaza. For our visit, the hustle and bustle of the plaza included the arrest of some thieves by the police, which compelled a couple of youths to yell when the police van was safely beyond the plaza, “Hijos de putas” and (I think) “pedazos de mierda.”

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo is a large Baroque cathedral that features a unique blend of colonial and Andean religious iconography. For instance, many of the church’s paintings of the Virgin Mary depict her as having what our guide called the “triangle shape of Andean mothers.” The real showpieces are the large canvases from the Cusquena Escuela that best exemplify the merger of Catholic and Andean cultural symbols. From a postcolonial perspective, it would be easy to signal these canvases as moments of hybridity, which they probably are. However, these murals also present how hybridity can be contained with the larger symbols of empire—a framed hybridity. The colonial space and pictorial symbols enclose and dominate the Andean influence in the paintings. Or at least so I thought.

From Santa Domingo, we travelled to the outskirts of Cusco to some of the Incan structures that exist in the hill country. The first was Saqsayhuamán, a large temple that stretches out over a plateau in the mountains above Cusco. The view provided by Saqsayhuamán was tremendous, the site offers up a picturesque vista of the city and the surrounding mountains. The long rock formations that compose Saqsayhuamán form a zig-zag pattern that our guide suggested was meant to signify a lightning bolt. The archeological site was our group’s first exposure to the two main elements of Incan architecture: astronomical symbology and precise masonry. The main wall of Saqsayhuamán—the “bolt” of lightning —has blocks of smooth granite so precisely placed together that it reminded me of a giant Incan game of Tetris. Every block, most of which were not uniform, was so snuggly placed against its partner that the wall gave the impression that it wasn’t made from blocks at all, but was one solid piece carved to represent the shape of brick of wall.

Saqsayhuamán

The other memorable monument at Saqsayhuamán has a more modern history than the rock wall. Cusco has a decent number of Arab immigrants who, according to our guide, have been more or less tolerated by the local (highly Catholic) population. In one of the less tolerant periods, the Arab community offered the citizens of Cusco a gift to help express their commitment and gratitude: a large white statue of Jesus in the vain of Rio’s Cristo Redentor. The statue comes at the point of Saqsayhuamán lightning blot, if you will, and is illuminated at night as if it were keeping watch over the city.

Tambomachay

The second Incan monument, we visited was Tambomachay, an aqueduct placed at the top of a small, but very steep, hill. The end of the aqueduct leads to small fountain underneath four of ceremonial nooks or, as we called ‘em in kindergarten, cubbyholes. These nooks are trapezoidal with the base being slightly larger than the top. They can be found many Incan monuments and are believed to have held mummies or gold-plated idols. Also, they’re another example of the precision found in Incan architecture, as each nook is the same size and the same distance separating each hole. The fountain at Tambomachay is a traditional spot for the citizens of Cusco to have marriage ceremonies where the bride and groom each drink from the fountain.

After Tambomachay, honestly, the rest of Cusco was numbing blur due to the altitude and general travel exhaustion. We ate a restaurant, Incanto, which was okay (though I have the terribly snobbish gustation of a true Limeño). I think everybody in our group, myself included, was asleep by 9:30 or so.

Cusco at Night

Essentially, my experience in Cusco and it’s surrounding areas left me wishing that we’d spent more than just a day in the area. One of the downsides of being a part of a guided tour is spending the trip on rails, being led from one destination to another like the character in an old Nintendo game. Of course, there are upsides to a guided tour and it was probably for the best since I was the only person who could, at times, pass for a reasonably coherent Spanish speaker. My role as translator was, as my teacher would say, good for my Spanish but annoying for everyone else.

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First, before I begin discussing my trip to Lima’s Interpol branch, I want to make a quick statement about the weather: It’s really nice. I mean really, really nice. As a lifelong Midwesterner, I’ve basically become accustomed to crappy weather. In Winter, it’s too cold and snowy; in the Summer, it’s too hot and humid. In the Midwest, you really get only 1 nice month in the Autumn and then another one in Spring. And that’s it, that’s the list. Hell, I was so inured to these craptastic seasons that I had convinced myself that everywhere else on the planet only had 2 good months of weather. Right now, Lima is transitioning into Summer and it’s absolutely gorgeous. And, though I still don’t believe this because my native Midwesternness won’t let me, it’s supposed to stay this nice for months. Months, I tell you! I’m worried I might turn into one my Midwesterners-turned-Southerners-or-WestCoasters friends who can no longer handle crappy weather.

So, my continuing search for a Peruvian work visa has taken it’s next, and hopefully second-to-last, step; namely, a visit to Interpol. In this step not only are you required to pay money to the Peruvian government but also are required to send some cash back to Good Ole Uncle Sam. I’m still not quite sure why the FBI needs to keep tabs on me while I’m living in Lima. Though I can assure you it’s not because I’m some super-secret drug smuggler (oddly, the FBI wouldn’t accept my “cross my heart” promise). I’ve been told it’s because the US government wants to keep track of me in case of an emergency, but I can’t really see US government being that concerned with British/Postcolonial scholars. I don’t see us getting on one of those big ships in that dumb John Cusack movie.

In relation to many of the other steps throughout my visa process, the trip to Interpol was relatively painless. Essentially, the process is a simple trip to a small government building tucked out in Surco where you’ll get poked and prodded by bored officials in dusty suits. It is a wee bit depressing, with these folks in their dusty, faded military green suits working in a dusty, faded military green building with bad tile. The key bit of advice I can give is to be prepared and get all the necessary documents finished before you get in the cab to head out to the building (which only does Visa stuff on Monday and Tuesday, btw). Unfortunately, like many steps in the visa process, nobody really tells you what you need, so it can become a frustrating guessing game. Therefore, allow me to help out, in the smallest way.

The key documents required by US persons seeking a visa are as follows:

  • Passport
  • 2 copies of your passport, including your front picture and contract stamp (ideally, I would suggest a person bring 10-15 copies of there passport before even coming to Peru, given the amount of places in which you need to hand out copies)
  • A receipt for 73 soles paid to Banco Nacional for the Canje Internacional
  • A check (giro de credito) for 30 USD given to you by BCP/SoctiaBank for the FBI (you give them the cash, they give you the check)
  • 18 soles for photos to be taken at Interpol
  • And a bunch of forms to be filled out that they’ll give you at the office.

"El metro es una película porno. Las aceras son un desastre. Yo sé que usted me ha apoyado durante mucho tiempo.De alguna manera no estoy impresionado"

First, these are the requirements for USians and, I think, Canadians who are seeking a visa. If you’re from Asia, Europe, or another South American country, some of the items you need will be different. I would highly suggest you visit the banks–and, of course, you can’t do it all at one bank–a day or two before you plan to head to Interpol. The weekend is particularly helpful because if you can go early enough (around 11), many of the banks aren’t that crowded. Also, I would avoid the Banco Nacional in Surco because when I was heading to Interpol there were 2 lines that stretched around the block, full of pissed off people waiting to get into the building. If you can get the copies and bank documents in order before you head to Surco, then the experience at Interpol can move quickly and smoothly.

The rest of the trip is essentially a documentation of your body and appearance. I felt a bit like a horse, being examined for a sale as my teeth, face, and fingerprints were all given a good once-over. The teeth examination is particularly strange because the only reason I could think of as to why they’d need to take notes on my teeth would be to identify my body after something terrible had happened. It was unnerving. All the other examinations will be pretty routine to anybody this far in the process, just another round of pictures and fingerprints. Honestly, given the amount of times I’ve had my prints taken there must be 15 or so copies of my fingerprints floating around Peru.

Overall, the trip to Interpol should be one of your easier Visa experiences, as long as you have all the documents prepared ahead of time. My last suggestion would be to have somebody who speaks Spanish accompany you if you’re not that familiar with the language. The staff at Interpol, like all government officials, are fairly abrupt and don’t really like answering questions that begin “I’m sorry, can you help me with…” I felt fine with my level of Spanish, and I’m by no means fluent, but I did have to ask a few questions, which received a sigh or two from some sclub behind a desk.

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I’ve been thinking about the transportation system in Lima quite a bit lately. Maybe because I spend a decent amount of time in transport, going to an’ fro between the university and my apartment. As I’ve mentioned, Limeños tend to talk about the traffic, with all its congestión and embotellamientos, like Midwesterns talk about the weather. So much that it becomes a type of greeting: “Oh, hello Jim. How about that traffic?” “I know Jane, it’s just so crazy!” It’s a common enough small talk topic that it will serve you well if you’re ever caught in a conversation with a new acquaintance, start with the traffic.

One of the major frustrations for Limeños is that the infrastructure of roadways in the city hasn’t, it seems, been able to match an increased growth of vehicles that use this infrastructure. I want to look at two of the vehicles that are hyper-visible on Lima’s roads: combi’s and taxis.

First, the taxis. As almost any guidebook will tell you, all cabs in Lima are negotiable. You barter with the driver to reach a deal, depending on your destination and the time of day. On a personal note, I sometimes find this a stressful thing because it is always a constant challenge that combines city life and language skills. You don’t really want to pick cabs that are too beaten up (some cabs here are about the size of a bumper-car and are powered by gas; not gasoline mind, but propane) or drivers that look sketchy. Also, no cab drivers here speak English, so both the negotiation and directions (don’t expect every cab driver to know your destination) must be done in Spanish. I’ve gotten to the point where I can give directions and hold small talk with my cabbies (basically about the traffic!). This is an accomplishment, I believe.

Since all cab fare is negotiated in advance, I come to the conclusion that this influences taxistas to drive ultra aggressively, since it will be the same price if you arrive at your destination in 10 or 15 minutes (sometimes they might try and wheedle an extra sole or two). In order to maximize their profits, then, cabbies here depend more on accumulating passengers that accumulating time. This is compounded by the sheer amount of cabs on the road. There is no regulation of cab service, so anybody who so desires can start picking up folks. So not only does a cabbie need high turnover, but also they must compete with the market to hit the right price point. There will always be another cab who might meet your price, always. With no meter, time equals wasted cash for the cabbies as they’re only burning gas; consequently, competition and the barter system means loads of aggressive drivers.

The combi system, Lima’s collection of buses and vans, is similar to the cabs. It’s not an organized bus system as some might recognize; instead, it’s a collection of privatized companies and small owners who operate their own vehicles. The combis themselves can range from a nice standard size bus to a small van—I mean small, like no bigger than a midsized SUV. While not as noticeable as taxis, there are still plenty of combis on the roads. Former President Fujumori completed altered the transit system when he opened up bus transport to the market, allowing business to create their own people carriers. As a result, combis exploded on Lima roadways like reality television shows on the airways (Topical Blog humor Alert! Zing!).

Riding the combi is very cheap, often a single Nuevo Sol or so. As you can imagine this creates a ton of pressure on the combi company/driver to maximize profits. Combis can be packed with people to the point that the barker (each combi has a person who tells you the price at each stop) hangs on to the outside of the bus. And this gets us to a very interesting point about transport in Lima because, if we look at the taxis and combis, the free market nature of traffic puts the passenger at risk. The emphasis both taxis and combis place on speed and passenger turnover help influence the aggressive driving and congestion for which Lima is famous. The roadways of a free market are interesting as an example and to some extent an effect of deregulating the rules of the road. It’s more than just a simple case of “Los conductores son locos” but of how the economics of a situation trickle down to our everyday experience on the road, in which speed is emphasized over time as normal characteristic of driving.

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We screw things up for everyone!

I have written a bit about how difficult it is to acquire a workable visa for yourself. As per the request of my friend Leslie, who’s awesome by the way, I’ll write a bit about traveling/moving internationally with pets. First, I should state that I only dealt with one half of the pet traveling equation, the receiving end (which sucked enough, but we’ll get to that). I was not the one who had to put my dogs, Miranda and The Stray, on a plane. (Sidenote 1: The second dog’s name is Stray, but “The Stray” sounds cooler, no? Sidenote 2: I imagine, because I can’t speak to it, that it was incredibly tough to put the dogs on plane without getting on it yourself. Like painful tough.)

So, my story is all about how the system here in Latin America works from the destination side of the process. Well, where should we start? How about the fact that due to the Andes, international flights to Lima arrive between 11 pm and 4 am. The dogs were lucky enough to arrive on one of the earlier 11 pm flights. Actually, they arrived at the warehouse around midnight. I know this because I was there, and saw them unloaded from the truck. Was able to stick my fingers through their kennels and everything…before they were yanked away on a dolly into a loud warehouse full of God-knows-what (Fun Fact: Later we saw a truck delivering boxes and boxes of live baby chickens. It was not funny. Not even in a surreal, 5 in the morning sorta way.) In the end, it didn’t really matter when the pups arrived, because they were going to hanging out for a long time.

Basically, there are three main players that you’ll need to placate to get your pets into Peru. A) The Airline B) The Government’s Agricultural wing or Senata C) The Warehouse/Storage company. All three of these main wings form a basic procedure that can be distilled, however vaguely, into the word “customs.” Customs sucks. It sucks so, so hard.

The Pups.

First, the airline, in our case Continental; they were the easiest part of the process. They received all the paperwork, charged you a fee (get used to this), and sent you on your way. Not too bad, all things considered. The only annoying thing is that most live animal custom papers are required to be processed by hand, so you’ll need to wait for the guy to deliver the paperwork to your local office. In our case, this was done via foot. Yes, that’s right; the guy ran the documents from the runway to the office, which was probably a good 6-7 minute car ride.

After that, began the numerous trips to and from the warehouse to the customs office at the airport (even though there was a customs office there, at the warehouse). It was during this point that the hardest thing happened: I was able to see the dogs taken back into the warehouse. That was tough. All I wanted to do was take them home, and there they were! Ugh, even now, thinking about it sucks.

The rest of the night was spent going back-and-forth from the airport to the warehouse, getting various papers stamped, sealed, and so forth. Like many things, there were several layers of bureaucracy that needed to be managed in order to get the dogs out of the warehouse. The only process is compounded by the necessary late-night arrival, as everyone is angry, sleepy, hungry, and simply doesn’t want to deal with anything at 2 in the morning. This goes for both myself and all the custom agent/warehouse personnel.

The biggest pain was that many of the custom agents really just wanted me to wait until 8 am to process the dogs release. However, that would have resulted with them being in their kennels for something like 13 hours. No way. So, in order to get them released that night, not only did I need to get several things signed and resigned, at two locations, I had to fork over a bunch of extra dough to make it happen. Ugh. Eventually, 6 hours later at, roughly, 5 in the morning, the dogs were able to be released to us and got to come home to apartment.

Despite the ordeal, the central things is that the dogs are safe and happy here in Lima. They’re able to drink the water just fine, and get plenty of walks around our neighbor. There is one our doormen who really likes them, and always needs to say hello to his little amigas (it’s pretty sweet).

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Who knew, an old NES game called "Montezuma's Revenge"

As in shit. And other fluids. I have been in Peru just over two months, and have been inflected with my first case of food poisoning. Or the dreaded Montezuma’s Revenge as it’s more commonly known (though Peru is the wrong country). And yes, it’s as bad as everyone says. Fortunately, my episode only lasted about 24 hours, which at least made it painfully brief. Unlike me, however, it did create a bit of a blockage  in my blog posting (Zing!). I’ll post about my experiences teaching soon, as I’ve had that post in the hopper for awhile now.

Throughout my stay, I’ve been incredibly careful about what I eat and drink. Hell, I even keep my mouth clamped shut in the shower. I’m not kidding. It’s like I’m a little kid at the dentist who is refusing to open his mouth (Spoiler: I totally was that kid). Yet, I think that an episode is unavoidable. If you’re traveling, it seems pretty easy to take enough precautions here in Lima to avoid any real contact with the dreaded “la venganza de Moctezuma.” Basically, if you avoid tap water, ice, and eat at nice places you’re pretty much in good shape. Yet, if you’ve decided to relocate here, your chances of getting stomach problems is probably 100%. Given enough time, all results will trend toward zero. Many ex-pats often speak of it as a sort of right of passage. Get it, deal with it, and then move on.

Actually, I find it pretty funny as almost everyone, from family to friends, has made a joke about it. Something about moving to a South American country elicits jokes about the shits. That said, it’s not the most terrible thing. Most good restaurants in Lima–even the cheap ones frequented by many locals–are very clean establishments. Of course there are dive bars/restaurants you want to avoid, but they’re pretty easy to spot. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Peruvians take their cooking really seriously, so most restaurants are clean, well-run, and offer delicious food. However, mistakes will happen. In my case, I don’t even think it was the actual food. From our deduction, we think it was from breakfast, which was basically just tocino y huevos (bacon and eggs). No fruit, uncooked meats, or fish. What probably happened was that the plate wasn’t completely dried off before they served me. Or, maybe, I just had a bad reaction to something. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not exactly known for having an iron stomach. In fact, I’m pretty famous for weak stomach. Or infamous. Or notorious. But, without a doubt, always embarrassed by it. Ah well, as a great man said: “It happens.

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Perception is, bluntly, a summabitch. One of the most annoyingly persistent, and difficult, perceptions I still have about Lima is the fact that it’s dangerous at night. And not just normal dangerous, but “where is the goddamn Batman!” dangerous. Now, like many of my beliefs about Lima, this an idea is founded in some fact. Peru is a developing country and, therefore, it has dangers that many cities, even large ones, in developed countries do not possess. To ignore this fact is to be dishonest about the realities of this country in which I’ve chosen to live. Now, of course, it’s also a developing country and not a war-torn nation. Also, this fear is compounded by my language difficulty. However, unlike any of my fears or anxieties I have about not knowing Spanish, the night has more of an irrational hold on me.

If you look closely you can see Batman

The are legitimate dangers that occur (or can occur) at night, more so than any of the possible results of my simple fear of looking like a douche at the Vivanda cause I can’t order meat properly. It’s smart to be vigilant at night in Lima, this is just a fact. However, vigilance can easily (for me) mutate into paranoia. Paranoia is no fun, despite what Thomas Pynchon may think. Not every corner hides a mugger, nor is every cab driver looking to separate me from my kidneys. Trying to find a balance between these two emotions is difficult, but the main thing I’ve decided is to not live in fear. To live in fear is to live such a small, isolated life.

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