Monday, April 30, 2012

MY PERFECT MARKET MATCH

MONDAY APRIL 30, 2012,  MY PERFECT MARKET MATCH
The only one remaining Argentinian girl from the night before was up early and running around trying to get her stuff together.  It was before 7am; I shut her out and fell back asleep.  I woke up to what I thought was my alarm, but seeing as it was too early, I realized it was a phone call.  I ran to the hallway so as not to wake the other sleeping girl in my room, and answered it.  I was now awake.  I lay in my bed a moment longer, but couldn’t go back to sleep.  It was time to get up.  
I walked around for a while, exploring back streets and in search of an ATM.  After finding one and taking out money, my tummy was grumbling like a beast, so I headed to the sandwich shop from the first night to try something new.  There was no line! Perfect.  Now generally I don’t like to repeat places when I have such a short time in a place, but it was so good the first day that I was craving another one.  I went all out.  I got a sandwich with chiccaron.  The woman asked me if I wanted other stuff on it.  “Todos!”  I said, wondering what everything would be.  A small side of their delicious peruvian potato fries, and a frozen strawberry juice and I was all set.  Now in Peruvian prices, spending $6 for this is quite pricey, however as an American I found it alright for a splurge, and went ahead with it. 
I sat at a small table outside next to a group of boys.  Where they were from I was unsure, but I would guess Holland based on their height, accents, and demeanor.  When they saw my food come, their eyes lit up, and from watching their next sequence of actions, it seemed they were unaware the place had fries.  One got up and ordered a giant basket for them to share.  My sandwich was a surprise.  Piece of juicy fatty pork, as I had expected, along with todo, which included as before, thinly shave red onion, but also tomato and thin slices of fried sweet potato.  Yum!  I got some of their green mayonnaise and red pepper sauce with a heavy hand applied it to my sandwich.  I was overly happy....and half way through, quite full; I had barely even made it to my drink yet.  I would finish it though.  You only live once.  Sandwich gone.  A good dent in my fries.  I took my drink and walked through the park to my hostel to see if anyone was around.  
I found Mark, just as he was writing me a note, and went to find Gustavo to see if he wanted to go to the market that he spoke about the night before.   Gustavo needed a few minutes so I sat chatting to Melina, one of the girls who worked there.  She loved me for some reason.  I had shared my canchas with her the prior few days, and from my small gift of generosity, she was thrilled to hang with me.  She also complemented my Spanish.  I smiled and thanked her, though I couldn’t believe it was actually as good as she seemed to think it was.  An American girl, Stephanie, was heading to el mercado as well, and when Gustavo was ready, we all headed out together.
Note to self, for past, present, and future market outings.  DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT, EAT BEFORE GOING TO A MARKET.  Like an idiot, not sure if I was going to the market, I ate and when we got there, though I definitely enjoyed my lunch, I instantly regretted it.  Locals, and only locals eating from small market stalls with typical Peruvian dishes.  Soup with internet organs.  Plates of meat with sauce and rice.  Ceviche.  And I was full.  I told Gustavo when I come back next week, we had to go!  He agreed and then showed me around the market.  Anything I didn’t know about, he would buy and have me taste.  He was my perfect market match.  I fell in love instantly, and wanted to have a market match ceremony, in which we said vows to each other and bargained from stall to stall.  
He picked up a fruit, of which I had no idea what it was.  It was round, with a greenish brown skin.  “Conosces?”  He asked.  I didn’t.  He bought it, peeled back some of the skin, exposing a bright faded orange flesh, and had me taste the first bite.  It was the texture of a cooked sweet potato, almost tasting like one that had been seasoned with brown sugar and spices.  It was not at all what I was expecting, and had I not been so full, I would have eaten the whole thing!   We moved on.  He picked up a passion fruit, or maracuya.  They differed from ours.  Used to seeing wrinkly purple fruits, these were big and orange.  There were also yellow ones, but we were getting the sweet variety.  He cracked it open, stuck his finger in and dug a bunch out.  Then offered it to me.  I did the same.  Mark looked on in intrigue and amusement.  His stomach was bad, so he tried very little (and I mean very little) bites of a few of the fruits, leaving them for us. 
We got something next I believed was a guava.  Though they all said it wasn’t, it looked and tasted just like it.  I’m still not entirely sure what it was then, but it was sweet and delicious, and I knew from the short time I’d already been in South America, the main thing I would miss would be the cheap flavorful fruit.  The last fruit he had me taste, was one I was not expecting.  It was a long pod, looking like the out side of a cranberry bean but about 5 times as long.  It was about 2 inches wide and a foot and a half long.  
He questioned the woman of the stall about the smallest one she had and so she weighed a few, and gave him the lightest (still big) pod.  He opened it and showed me a green seed.  I thought that was the part i was supposed to eat, so I pulled out a white flesh covered seed and tried to peel it.  He showed me.  He stuck the whole thing in his mouth, ate the fluffy outter bit, and spit the bright green seed out.  Another flavor and texture I was not expecting, but with each one I had, the sweet dense fluff grew on me. 
We walked around more from stall to stall, looking at meats, hanging poultry, gutted baby pigs.  Mystery animals, hung, skinned and deheaded. We tried to guess what they were.  There was a woman selling fresh cheese that was wrapped in banana leaves.  We tried little pieces of the soft, chewy, salty fresh cows cheese. It was wonderful!  And Gustavo bought a pound of it, for less than $2.   Suddenly I didn’t want to leave.  
He then walked around, bargaining for the giant white corn cobs Lima had in prevalence, and with a white guy and a blonde girl by his side, he had trouble getting the best deal.  We stood behind for a bit so he could go get his perfect cheap piece and once his mission was completed, we circled around a few more minutes before heading back.   
I sat at the hostel for a bit with Mark before I had to leave.  Said good by to Gustavo in the kitchen who was cooking up Causa, using the hostel’s 2 pots, a tiny pan, a burner roasting a pepper, and everything he had bought.  I wished I could’ve tasted the outcome.  I gave him a hug and told him I’d see him when I got back, and walked out to the street with Mark to catch a taxi.  We were heading to the main street, when I saw an empty taxi and waved it.  He stopped and I asked how much to the airport.
“Sessanta!”  He said to me.  60 soles!?  Was he crazy?!
“No!”  I said to him shaking my head with a smirk and a calm demeanor.  “Tengo un amiga aqui e me dice que no pago mass de 40 soles.  35 es normal.”
“Ok, 50.”  He said. 
“No.”  I repeated what I had said earlier. 
“45.”  He spoke of some crap of having to pay when he entered the airport, which was true, but he didn’t need an extra 5 for that.  After a few more minutes of this, he finally agreed to 40, and I got in. 

He took a completely different way from how I had come into the city, and as we drove along the coast (which was breezy, and beautiful) I wondered if he was actually taking me to the airport, or if he was angry at me for the argument and was going to take me to some abandoned patch of sand, take all of my things, and leave me there.  I was hoping it was just an alternative way, and 45 minutes later, we arrived at the airport.  Why was I worrying?  I gave him 45 soles, with tip, and headed into the airport.  
If all airports were this easy, traveling would be so as well.  I walked to the door of the airport where an old Peruvian man checked my passport and directed me in the direction of my check in area.  I waited in line for not even 2 minutes, was checked in in another minute, and off to security, which like everything else, was the fastest security I had ever experienced.  I walked to my gate and waited the hour for my flight watching as gate 10 filled up, mainly with single Peruvian men, a large group of women and children coming close to boarding time holding boxes and boxes of Dunkin Donuts.  The stuff that pleased them here!
A mother and son (or at least I thought being that she looked about mid 50s, he late 30s) sat together behind me.  Every few minutes the woman’s cell phone would ring, a loud latin song chiming and she’d answer and talk at the same volume as the ringer.  Her son walked away....a a few minutes later, she did too, asking as she began to walk away if I’d watch her stuff, leaving before I even had a chance to answer.  I panicked, thinking in an American mentality.  I can’t watch your stuff, what it there’s a bomb in it, you’re abandoning it!  But then I thought how silly I sounded and watched her stuff. 
An announcement came on the PA a few minutes after she left, saying that the flight to Arequipa was moving gates, and a cluster of people got up and rushed for a 30 second walk over to gate 14.   I was stuck there unsure of what to do, as there was no one to watch the bags.  The son came finally and I asked to make sure it was him, and left him to it.  
At gate 14 I sat in between a woman from Barcelona with bad breath, and a chunky Peruvian woman.  A man across from her sat with his computer open and a mother with a bratty little girl in one arm, and her even brattier son holding onto her other, walked past, the son taking his hand and pressing every key on the keyboard before being pulled away, the mother taking no note of what was happening.   These same two kids also walked past the man scanning the tickets to get onto the plane, and screamed a good majority of the ride.  
Another woman across from me sat there coming her hair for a good 10 minutes trying to straighten out what little of it she had.  It was greasy and curled at the bottoms.  Her brushing did nothing, but pester me to watch.  Then she continued, taking a spoon, and using it in the weirdest way I’d ever seen, to curl her eye lashes.  
I boarded the plane, sitting in the front in an aisle seat.  The woman taking up the other aisle, looked like a Boston terrier with big lips and a giant piece of hanging skin underneath her neck.  She pulled out a bag of pistachios and began de-shelling them, inhaling deeply and smacking her lips together with every pistachio she took, then scraping out every bit in the shell before throwing the trash into a white paper bag.  I placed my ear phones in and turned on some reggaeton to avoid her annoying sounds. 
I waited to see who’d be sitting next to me at the window seat, when low and behold, it was eyelash spoon curler woman.  I dozed off before we even took off, and woke up to her putting make up on, applying one shade of eyeshadow for a solid 4 minutes.  It became amusing to me, and I went back to sleep. 
I woke up when we were nearly landing and waited anxiously, overlooking the mountains below as the sun set.  A few turbulences and a bumpy landing later, we had landed in Arequipa.  As we all stood there waiting to get out, the Boston terrier behind me, I mean the old woman, kept stepping closer and closer, not realizing we were not going anywhere but every time she did, she’d hit me.  She could give a damn.
We walked down the steps leading out onto the landing field and then into the airport, where we waited for our bags.  I saw a girl, who was clearly not from here, and decided to talk to her, both of us speaking in Spanish until we finally realized english might be easier.  We decided to share a cab, as we were going to hostels quite close to each other, and thus saved ourselves a few bucks.  When we got outside and were bombarded by taxi drivers, I waited until I saw a face I felt more lured to than the others, and asked him how much.  He told me an honest price, and we got in with his driver who agreed to take us both to where we needed to go for only 20 soles.  Basically we paid $4.50 each for a half hour taxi ride.  Score!  
Already driving through the streets of Arequipa I knew it was more of what I was hoping for than in Lima.  There was less of a feel of corporate America and their fast food, and more of a feeling of Peru.  People walked around small streets, women were vending food from carts.  I watched as they sliced potato in their hand and had plates of meat to the side of a giant pot.  Whatever it was, I wanted it!  A short ride later on a small street, I was dropped off at my hostel and greeted with a smile by a young girl, who spoke to me in Spanish and showed me around.
I debated as of whether or not to go and walk around by myself, getting lost in the night and finding what could be something great, or myself in a bad predicament, but it’s not like me to ever be scared of my surroundings.  I was more just using it as an excuse for my tired self. 
Finally I got myself up decided to go for a walk.  Not intentionally, I ignored every piece of directions I was given as far as how to get to Plaza Arma, and started walking, but when I realized I had no idea where I was actually going, and it would be getting late soon, it was already dark and I’m terrible with directions and maps, I used the street I knew I was on, looked at the map and steered myself to the main square.  I walked up a flight of stairs, passing an older woman asking what street I was indeed on, and after confirming I was on Calle Consuela, I continued on, making it in another few minutes to Plaza Arma.  I stopped into a supermarket, where I picked out a bunch of baby bananas, a juicy mango, which a reluctant and bitter sales girl had to weigh for me and place the sticker on it, and some “natural” yogurt, that still contained sugar.   
Checking out, I walked back to the hostel, this time a different way, and when I got to a point where the streets didn’t match up with the map, I stopped into a small fruit shop where a man, his wife, and their daughter sat eating dinner in front of the TV with the shop still open, but no people coming, and asked for directions.  The dad not having patience, or glasses and unable to read the map, handed it to his daughter with an almost Italian like gesture, raising his thick hands up in the air and pouting his lips together.  She in turn knew immediately, walked me outside, pointed to a sign and told me to head right there.  Somehow I had done a weird circle and brought myself back to where I had started, even though I should have come in a different way.  None the less, I made it back to the hostel. 
In the kitchen I cut up my mango, a few baby bananas, and poured yogurt on it.  No one would ever know I was a chef.  But the fruit here is so good, it’s a definite treat to have something so delicious and so simple.  The mango was juicy, sweet, and creamy.  And the bananas almost had a caramel flavor to them.  I enjoyed my meal, and that was all that mattered.  
I sat at a table with a German and a Dutch girl talking to them, while the French couple sat quietly at the other side, ignoring all of us.  We chatted for a bit, both of the girls having spent quite a bit of time in Argentina and telling me about it, later meeting a few boys from Sacramento who had woofed around South America.  We parted ways for the night, and I went to lie in my bed and figure out what I planned to do in the following week before I had to be back in Lima.

©2012 Jami Cakes™ All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 29, 2012

BRUISED ASS FROM THE LOVER’S PARK

SUNDAY APRIL 29, 2012, BRUISED ASS FROM THE LOVER’S PARK
I slept like a baby. I didn’t notice anyone leave, or shower, or anything.  I woke up at 9:30 and was the only one left in my room, and it felt good. I got up, got dressed, and sat around the hostel writing for a bit.  I met a new friend, Gustavo, a young cook from Brazil who was going around south america for the next two years to see how other cooked.  Mark a man from Wisconsin who sat with us the night before joined us and everytime I thought about going for a walk, I got caught up in conversation until finally it was nearly noon, when Willy was planning to meet me.  I decided to go for a quick walk, Mark suggesting I head to the tourist office to get some maps.  I passed it, but it was Sunday, and the office was closed.  Onto find myself a juice!  I walked for ten minutes and just as I neared a place, I got a phone call from Willy saying he had arrived and was waiting in the lobby.  I turned back around and met him shortly after.  We sat and spoke with Mark for a bit, before heading off. 
We entered Willy’s car and drove down to the beach.  This time we were actually at the beach, walking on rocks and sand and watching people surf.  The waves were so strong that their mist would come up and splash us, flickering my camera’s lens with water.    Tourists walked along the beach.  A man in marathon attire ran past us sprinting at great speed. Women sat and watched as their boy friends were out in the water surfing. And an older man came out from the water to meet his wife who was waiting under an umbrella with a sandwich and an Inka cola for his arrival.  
We walked along for a bit to another spot before turning around.  On the way back I bought a snow cone or raspadilla from an older lady eating lunch at her cart.  She scooped some ice into a plastic cup and drizzled it generously with 3 syrups, mango, strawberry, and another orange one, of what flavor, I was unsure.  But within my first bite, I was so happy.  It was real fruit, so the flavor was delightful, fresh, and refreshing.  I ate every bite with pleasure and a smile upon my face.
From the beach, we headed to a long row of parks.  We first walked through a beautiful one where children played.  Then drove a bit to El Parque de Amor.  Willy parked his car in front of a man on a bicycle selling ice cream, and bought something so the man would watch his car.  He told me that’s how the maffia does it and then laughed. 
El Parque de Amor was just that.  The park of love. Lots of young lovers sat and caressed each other in the grass.  It reminded me of Park Guell in Barcelona, with funky long mosaic benches and designs lining most of the park, in which were famous sayings about love and romance.  It overlooked the ocean, and where we recently stood.  And in the center of the park was a giant metal sculpture of 2 people cuddling into a kiss.   It was most certainly the park of love.  And just the perfect place for a klutzy unromantic fool such as myself.  I was there enjoying the view and art, and in trying to get a perfect picture of the sculpture, climbed up a slippery tile and slipped off, straight onto my ass.  I saved my camera however and that was all that mattered.  I got up, laughing hysterically, Willy not knowing what to do and people around who saw me fall, looking at me strangely or smirking beneath their breathe.  It was fine.  I would be laughing at me too.  I was. 
We drove off to find lunch now.  Willy was taking side streets driving far.  I thought he had a special place in mind.  Maybe some small Peruvian restaurant in a residential neighborhood perhaps?  That was my hope!  But when we pulled up in front of an Italian restaurant, I hoped we were just parking.  When he headed in the direction of the door, I had no hope left.  We were going to an Italian restaurant on my 3rd day in Peru, when I had barely even begun to try anything local yet. 
“The lasagna is quite good here, I think.”  He said.  And after seeing the pizza come out, I knew I would not be ordering that.  Lasagna it was.  He also ordered a large pitcher of Chicha Morada, the purple corn drink and after taking a small sip, I was ok.  It was yummy, but too sweet for me.  I found it hilarious that earlier as I ate a fresh fruit snow cone, he said he didn’t eat sugar because it made him fat, but then ate bon bons from an ice cream man, and drank nearly an entire pitcher of this sugary drink.  
He also ordered some bread for us.  Garlic bread covered in cheese came out.  We were getting the good stuff now! (Sense the sarcasm?)  A bit later the lasagna came out.  It was good, but I was saddened by being in Peru and wasting a meal on ok italian food.  It’s ok, it was about the company.  When we finished lunch, he drove me back to my hostel and we said goodbye until next time.  
I headed to my room, and as I did I saw Mark coming down the stairs.  He was heading to the supermarket and I joined him.  I needed a little walk.  We walked through a few aisles checking out their products.  I headed for the fruit section and walked out with a giant bottle of water and a gorgeous half of a papaya.   On the way home, we stopped in a tourist market, with Inkan goods, and as I walked by one stall, a woman stopped me to ask if my papaya was fake!  We all laughed about it as she commented on how perfect it looked, it must not have been real, and lured me into her shop to have a look.  I briefly took a peek and quickly walked away thanking her.  She smiled and waved bye.  

We walked back to the hostel and I did a bit of writing while Mark made himself some toast.  80s classics were being played on the stereo, and I brought out some of my canchas piccantes for the lovely ladies of the hostel to enjoy.  
A while later, Mark and I headed out for another walk.  Wandering around without much of an aim, we  come to a giant mall with every American fast food chain in site and a Pinkberry and decided to go to the supermarket , getting samples of things, before turning back around.  We walked, soon reaching El Parque de Amor, for the second time that day, where much to our surprise, not as much love as I was expecting was going on.  I would’ve thought the night would have been much more romantic and filled with young lovers.  I was wrong.  It was a bunch of children running around.  We headed back to the hostel where I sliced up my papaya and hung out with Mark and Gustavo for a bit before heading back to my room to write and relax.  I called it a day.

IS THAT A DOG?!

SATURDAY APRIL 28, 2009, IS THAT A DOG?!
I slept in, waking up early to people talking loudly outside of my room, I put my ipod on and dozed off.  It wasn’t until 10:30 hit, that I thought I should probably get up.  I had booked a new hostel the night before and was excited to move.  I got ready, packed up and checked out, heading in what direction I thought was correct, out and to the right.  I had started on the right path, but wanting to make sure of it, I stopped and asked two bored looking girls running a snack stand in the street.  They pointed to the next block and left.  I was close.  I crossed the street, headed past a casino, past a hotel, checking the numbers as I went, and nearing the end of 2nd block, I found my hostel in a large, enchanting, pink house.  I walked in and was immediately happy I made the switch when I entered a clean place, with a warm demeanor, and smiling faces.  I could not check in quite yet, but they allowed me to store my things, gave me a map and told me I could hang out, or go explore.  I left, just as another girl from the hostel did, following just a few steps behind her, finally deciding to talk to her. 
“So, you traveling alone?”  I asked.  What kind of pick up line was that you creep!  I thought to myself, but she responded so I guess I couldn’t have been that bad.  Her name was Eefke from Holland, and she was traveling around South America for a few months.  I went with her to the supermarket, where it was packed with people and local ingredients, such as cheap avocados, purple corn, and cherimoya and bought some baby bananas and something called canchas, Peru’s version of a corn nut, a large dried corn kernal pan fried in oil and usual sprinkled with salt.  In my case I got Canchas piccantes, which were crunchy, corny and sprinkled with a mix of spices, non of which were piccante (spicy).  We walked back to the hostel, eating baby bananas and canchas, and getting whistles and clicks from local older men.  
I had to meet Willy in front of the other hostel in an hour and invited Eefke to come.  We sat around for a bit, relaxing and talking and then took off for our 6 minute walk.  However when we got there he was not yet there.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited some more, but he was no where in site, so we decided to wait in line at La Lucha and get some juice.  It was hot and they were refreshing.  It was only after we had ordered and were waiting, that Willy called me, looking for me in the hostel.  We met him outside, our drinks were ready, and I explained how I had switched.   I drank my frozen strawberry juice, as we walked down towards the beach.  
Lima has a mall just overlooking it’s beach below, and we stood there and watched the waves for a bit before heading in a taxi to Lima’s center.  Willy was scared of me having my camera.  He was insistent on someone taking it, but I told him it’d be ok.  We exited the taxi on a crowded street and began walking straight.  It was overloaded with people, noise, street vendors and cars.  We were easily spotted with our blonde hair and light skin, and more clicking, kisses, whistling and other sound affects began being made.  We squeezed through and around people, and I took my camera out.  Willy looked worried.  I wrapped the strap around my wrist several times, and held the rest of it.  It was secure.  Men and teenage boys were holding clusters of balloons, ranging from pink cats, to dolphins, to spongebob, to cars.  Kids would buy them and run around holding a single bright balloon.  Women were selling raspadillas (a snow cone, but with real fruit instead of sugar syrup and food coloring).  There were boys selling fruit.  Stands of Chicha morada, a spiced drink made from purple corn are sold to many locals who love it.  It’s the most popular drink I’ve seen people consuming, other than fresh juice, and the oh so popular soda of Peru, Inka Cola, a yellow soft drink that tastes like bubble gum.  All through the streets people walk, to the sides people vend from the street, and along the sidewalk are actual shops.  
An entrance to El Mercado Central appeared at the middle of one street, and we went in. 
“At your own risk!”  Willy said to us, unsure of how we’d take it in.  Eefke and I explained how we enjoyed markets and for him to stop worrying.  Fresh hanging poultry, produce in a rainbow of colors, and some sort of mystery meat sat where 2 people lay next to it sleeping.  It looked like a dog based on the long tail, the only part still having a little bit of hair remaining.  I hoped it wasn’t.  I loved the smell, the atmosphere, the stalls.  I don’t think Willy felt the same, and we left too soon after stepping in.  
We stopped into a little art gallery with a few paintings and a strange piece, of dried bread lined up to make some sort of design.  Wandering more from the streets of the markets to that of a nicer shopping area, we hit La Catedral de Lima in Plaza Mayor, and entered, where a wedding was going on.   We continued walking. Willy taking us to the bar where the drink of Peru was invented, the Pisco Sour, though Eefke ended up leading us there.  No one was in the bar.  We sat in the heat,  in an old style bar, wooden tables and chairs, and got 3 mini pisco sours.  It was like lemonade with alcohol and a bit of foam.  They were delicious.  
After, back on the street,  we tried to hale a taxi, which seemed to be impossible. None of them wanted to go where we were asking, as they wanted to stay out of the traffic. We decided to catch the metro instead. Walking for a bit until we got to the bus stop.  We took line A, to another stop, then walked for a bit before catching a smaller van like bus to Jokey plaza.  A kid yelled out the window where the bus was heading and we got on and paid a man who I thought may have been his dad.  A girl sat in the front of the bus also yelling out the window, and I assumed it was a family affair. 
Another 15 minutes and we got off at Plaza Jockey.  Which turned out to be a giant mall.  Willy was excited to show us the shopping, though neither of us were too enthralled, but tried to be polite.  We were planning to see a movie, but after rocking up to the theater and seeing at least 100 people waiting in line like it was disneyland or something, we opted against it.  We took another van bus to a different section of the city, and walked along a road until we found a place with typical Peruvian dishes.  
We sat in a quiet restaurant and were served by an older grumpy peruvian woman.  Willy ordered for us, getting us specialties.  A little while later food came, and it kept coming!  We had causa, a dish or mashed yellow potato mixed with some spices and usually served with some meat or fish.  And in Lima it is served even a bit differently, as it is cold and served alongside hard boiled eggs.  We got ours with crab and the flavor reminded me of mixing potato salad and the inside of a crab roll from an North American east coast fish shack.  There was also a potato salad served in an avocado.  We had Cau cau a yellow stew liked dish with meat and potatoes served alongside rice. And we had grilled beef hearts, stomach, corn and some fried potato.  The spices on the heart and stomach were phenomenal, and I kept picking at that dish the most.  It was delicious!  
Eefke and I split the bill, thanking Willy for his time and generosity in taking us around.  To which he said thank you and told us how it was typical for the men to pay.  We shook our heads and handed the money to our now even grumpier waitress.  Stomach’s full and heads tired, we caught a cab back to our hostel and hung out a bit.  
I finally checked into my room and inside were two very tired french girls who wanted to shut the light off at not even 10 pm.  I got all of my stuff together and took a shower so it wouldn’t be such a pain later and went out to the common area to join the others.  I booked a ticket to Arequipa for the upcoming Monday, chatted with some cool folk, and finally went to bed.  It was a good day.
©2012  Jami Cakes™  All Rights Reserved

LA to LIMA AND A SENSE OF FAMILIARITY IN BETWEEN

FRIDAY APRIL 27, 2012, LA to LIMA AND A SENSE OF FAMILIARITY IN BETWEEN
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t ready to go this time.  Something was holding me back. I was more reluctant than usual to pack, which was ironic, as I actually finished packing quite early.  At least 16 hours before my flight, a new record, for me!  But that didn’t mean I was actually ready, mentally that is.  I tried explaining to a friend earlier on that week, the mental preparation for a long trip.  And the fact that I had no return ticket, I didn’t really know how long long was.
The week before I leave, when it really dawns on me that I am leaving, I turn into a homebody.  I don’t want to go out.  I don’t wanna see my friends.  I don’t want to do much of anything but sit at home, cook, and spend time with my family, who’s faces I don’t know quite when I will see next outside of a skype session here or there.  It’s the sense of familiarity, love, and safety that I crave before I head off for a new adventure.  Because once I’m out of the house, nothing is routine, nothing is familiar and I’m all alone, with no one to depend on, but myself.  Of course this becomes something I’ve grown accustomed to, and thus is a familiar, habitual reccurence, that I’ve come to love. But it takes me about a week or 2 to really sink into that feeling of independence and solidarity that makes me feel so empowered.  Once I’ve reached that point, the rest is easy!  
This past week was no exception, and I sat at home on my last night reluctant to go to sleep because that meant when I woke I’d be in for a new trip, and have to leave.  It had been the longest I’d been home, in 4 years, and this time I really didn’t know why I was leaving.  I’d fallen into routine.  I had to push myself out of it.  
Let me explain something.  This is not a complaint.  By no means would I ever even begin to complain about  traveling.  I am privileged, fortunate, and so lucky for the opportunity to do this!  And I love it.  I adore every second of it, even the hard times.  But it’s not easy.  It’s not a 2 week vacation in the Bahamas where everything is organized for me and I just show up and sit on a beach.  It’s a long adventure, depending on me and my choices, with lack of knowledge of languages  a bad directional sense, sleeping on buses, trains, train stations, more buses, hitching rides, sleeping in strangers’ houses, getting sick, getting better, getting sick again, dirty hostels, clean hostels, new friends, lonely times, big groups, walking alone, and picturesque sunsets overlooking a scenic view from atop a mountain with a whole bunch of brilliant and terrible experiences in hand to remember forever.  In the end everything works out, and a new story comes from it, and I come out a better, stronger and more independent person, with new knowledge of yet another place, another culture, and of course with even more of an educated palette and enlightened sense for my surroundings.  I wouldn’t give any of it up, ever.
At 4:28 this morning, my alarm rang.  LMFAO’s champagne showers shouted from my phone’s speakers as it vibrated on my bed side table, telling me to get up!  I hit snooze, or so I thought, until I grabbed my phone what felt like a few minutes later to check the time, and saw it was 3 to 5.  We were supposed to be out of the house by 5!  Eh.  I darted out of bed, turned the light on, brushed my teeth, jumped in and out of the shower, got dressed and added any last minute bits and bobs to my luggage.  I hugged my dad, pet my dogs, and left the house with bags in hand and my mom following behind.  
On the way to the airport, we hit every red light possible, still getting there before 6.  However I was dropped off at the wrong terminal and walked out of the building and to the left (as the lady had directed, pointing to the right) over to terminal 6, checking myself in and sitting, waiting, for my mom to come so I could say good bye.  She followed me over to the escalators, but not realizing she couldn’t come up until I had made it half way up, we waved good bye, instead of the usual bear hug.  I felt somehow that I had to disconnect myself far more from everything this time around.  If I just waved and walked away, then it wouldn’t be as  much of a big deal saying good bye.  It was quick, nonchalant, and 30 seconds later, she was no longer in site. 
Airport security was actually a pleasurable experience for once, as TSA Officer Holmes, a plump black man with a sense of humor and a smile on his face in both real life and his badge picture, asked me questions out of curiosity instead of interrogation, finally sending me on my reluctant way.  I wanted to stay and share jokes and hear stories of his family and share my travel chapters.   Instead I ended up bare-foot behind an older, adorable boyish lesbian couple, waiting for my things to come out from the x-ray machine.  
I was hungry and ran around trying to find something to eat.  Yogurt parfait, okay.  I changed my mind when I saw that coffee bean was trying to charge nearly $7 for a cup of yogurt with granola.  A granola bar for a dollar would do just fine.  I sat and ate it at my gate, where barely a seat sat free, and everyone waited to board what would be a completely filled flight.   I sat on the isle next to an 8 year old boy who played something that resembled virtual legos on his ipad, and then switched to his touchscreen gameboy to play Pokemon.  It was completely different from the Pokemon I remembered as a kid, more advanced, and colorful, with better animation.  I started to feel old, staring down at the screen, wanting to say, “Ya know kid, back in my day it was in black and white...” but stopped myself from turning into a grandfather talking about before they had snow plows and  trekking 2 miles in the snow to get to school. 
3 hours later I was in Houston, wandering around aimlessly, waiting for my connecting flight.  And then a sense of familiarity and safety came to me.  As I walked to my gate, I passed where I sat just a few months earlier.  I remembered being exhausted, missing our connecting flight, sitting there with my aunt and uncle on our way back from Nigeria.  We were all drained of energy, any form of life-like symptoms, and just wanted to be home.  I had purchased a coffee and a yogurt from the Starbucks around the corner, and shared it with my aunt.  Hungry and feeling some sense of weird joy from being back somewhere I knew, I went and bought a yogurt, sat and read, and waited for my flight.  
I boarded and sat in 15B waiting and hoping I’d have the two seats to myself.  I watched as a girl from my LA flight boarded, looking ready for an excursion trip, and another girl soon after, with calm demeanor.  I wondered what she was going to Peru for.  I wanted to talk to them both, to create a group of single travelers who could stick together before we even got to our point of destination, but not wanting to look like a total weirdo, or like I was trying to pick up, I refrained.  2 couples traveling together sat in front of me, talking loudly and wondering how they were all going to sit together.  I didn’t understand the problem as they had 4 seats next to each other, but watched on in amusement as they stood there panicking that the plane would fill up and they would no longer be able to sit in pairs.  Lucky for them, it didn’t and they got their way. 
Before we even took off, I had fallen asleep, waking up to some pretzels and a landing card on my seat as someone knocked into my foot that was dangling in the isle.  Everyone was awake and watching some movie about Matt Damon  buying a zoo.  A terribly resistible smell came soon following, with chicken and “risotto” or beef and rice.  I got the chicken and picked at it, leaving most of it behind, and boy was I glad I did as I turned to my right and saw the girl 4 seats away from me, puking into her barf bag.  Her bag must’ve felt special cuz I feel like those things never get any action! Apparently the mess of salty chicken and undercooked rice hadn’t agreed with her.  I didn’t blame her, I just felt bad for the poor thing.
I spent the rest of the flight, trying to sleep, in which I was quite successful, before realizing we were nearing the final hour, and tried to wake myself up. Lima and it’s surroundings were filled with a bunch of organized lights.  But not in a flashy overly bright Tokyo/New york style, but something of beauty and wonder from the sky, looking down onto the city at night.  As the plane landed I watched the woman in front of me clap and cheer.  This being an upper middle aged white southern women.  The woman to my right cracked up beneath her breathe and I looked at her, and did the same.
When the signal was clear for us to unfasten our seat belts and get the hell out, everyone stood up in a mad rush, (the usual) and instead of waiting patiently in their seats, we were all standing, squished together in a miserable cluster, wondering what was taking the people ahead of us so long.
I got out quickly, headed through customs in a breeze, and was out to get my bag.  It came within the first 3 minutes and I walked out for my final customs check.  I stood in a small line waiting to get up to the front where an arrow would appear, either green, or red.  The man who took my final form spoke to me quickly in spanish, most of which I understood, or thought I did, until I walked past the point of the arrow and was immediately called back. 
“Senorita! Senorita!” I walked back.  He said something else, and based on his actions I realized I had to press a button.  It turned green.  I walked over to where people’s bags were being checked.  But after standing there for a minute without a word being said to me, I asked if I was in the right spot.  I explained what had happened and they looked at me funny and told me green meant go.  I was free to go, and walked out to where a hoard of excited Peruvian families stood waiting for their love ones to come out.  It was a sea of tan skin and dark hair and I scanned through them for Willy.  I walked towards the exit, slowly pacing around, looking for a chinese male, but was having no such luck.  I got stares from people, as if I were performing on a stage, in the middle of the crowds.  I checked upstairs, where he originally told me he’d be.  Just more stares.  I walked back down and outside where after being bombarded by a few taxi drivers on my way out, I was overly questioned by one outside, and beginning to get pissed off, I walked back inside and sat on my backpack in hopes that if he walked out, or in, I would see Willy.   My plan was successful. 
Within a minute, he walked in, and I yelled at him from my seat on my back pack and ran to give him a hug.  He apologized for being late, something I found unnecessary as he was the one who was picking me up, and we walked out to his car, and headed off.  The first few minutes on the road, I learned how Peruvians drive.  With an organized recklessness and a lack of mindset for pedestrians.  Cars always have the right away.  
When we got to my hostel after a long drive past casinos, flashing lights, and something Willy called a house for buying women, or (as I later told him it was called) a brothel, we parked the car in a lot around the corner, and crossed the street a few times before making it to the hostel.  I thought I was gonna die, I thought Willy was gonna die, and I was far too tired to really realize how to cross the street, without following my Peruvian friend.  Alive, in one piece, we entered the hostel building.  It was dark and dingy, and not many people were around.  The common area on the second floor didn’t have much of a community feel to it, and I was shown my room, for one, on the third floor before the guy left me with my key and headed back to his desk.  

“It smells a little in here?”  Willy asked.  It did.  He opened the window, and we left it to air out while we went for a walk to find some food.  He took me to an old hippy coffee shop that was no longer serving food.  A no go, as we wanted sustenance.  We ended up next to the hostel at a well known sandwich joint called La Lucha.  According to Willy, “it was made famous by a Peruvian chef with a TV show, Chef Gustavo who described it as the best sandwich he ever ate, and now everyone goes.”   I told Willy what I wanted, had a seat and waited while he went to stand in line and get us some goodies.  15 minutes later his name was called and 2 sandwiches were delivered to our table, along side an accidental order of fries, and some juices.  I had a pineapple banana and papaya juice, along side of my lomo (pork) sandwich with shaved red onions on a perfectly crisp and fluffy round of bread.  Willy didn’t put sauce on mine for lack of knowing what I might like, so I got up and got some myself, practicing my spanish. 

“Me lo presto?”  I asked, looking at someone behind the counter and taking a bottle of green mayonnaise.  Then there was the red sauce, tasting like a Romesco of sorts.  Salty and a strong roasted red pepper flavor, the two sauces together made my sandwich all the tastier.  The fries were fantastic.  A peruvian potato, with a pink skin and streaks of natural red coloring through the off white flesh, it was crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and a beautiful mix with the green mayo.  Full, and happy, I walked back to my room, said good night to Willy and stayed up a bit longer trying to buy tickets, before the internet went out on me, and I said goodnight.

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