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

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