It took me 19 hours to drive from Mancora to Lima. Each second I didn’t spend sleeping–which, thankfully, were relatively few–I filled with enlightening Christian movies such a Facing the Giants, or one of the other movies made by the same company, using the same actors. Some buses pass the time playing ultra-violent or action movies such as Saw or The Expendables, and others choose to err on the more chaste side. It all depends on the bus driver, and there’s generally no in between. Now, don’t get the wrong impression of me when I say this, but I really prefer some Jason Statham badassery to a husky suburban white man telling his football team through his tears that their team will win if they ask God nicely. I’m not an overly religious person, but I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work. But then again, when I was in Quito’s cathedral a man asked me to pay the church 50 dollars to save my soul and become absolved of my sins. Maybe things really do work differently down here.
Once arriving in Lima, I took some time to stretch my legs and eventually found a taxi to take me to Trish’s apartment in Pueblo Libre, a quieter, cute Limen~an barrio next to Universidad de la Catolica. Just like Cuenca at this very moment, Lima was a deceivingly freezing 60 degrees. The main factor there is the humidity. Despite being in the middle of the desert, Lima is cold and permanently overcast for about half of the year, with the other part of the year beautiful, sunny, and warm. Being in the southern hemisphere, it’s unfortunately winter now. After a few minutes of walking around, I hopped in the first safe looking taxi I could find (i.e. no holes and an old man driving) and drove to the University. It was about dinner time when I found Trish outside of la universidad, so we headed to the closest market to get some food. Now, since food in Lima is supposed to be some of the best you can possibly eat in South America, I had some high expectations. The food I received was indeed different from what I ate in Ecuador and Colombia, although not in the way I expected. Meals down here come like this: soup, plate with meat, rice, and a light side salad or fries, accompanied by some sort of juice. The course this women served us was, in a general sense, no deviation from the norm. We were given a potato/fish based soup, a plate with meat and rice, and some sort of fruit juice I can’t remember. The difference, though, lies in the ingredients and the way it was cooked. The soup had a chicken leg in it. Not like a drumstick, but the main walking part, with talons and feet and everything included. The meat on the chicken foot wasn’t cooked, which was a theme that carried out throughout the rest of the meal. I didn’t know this at the time, and not wanting to offend anybody and leave food behind, I ate all I could, including whatever meat I could find on the chicken leg. It was a slightly uncomfortable meal because of the chicken foot, but besides that there really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Trish and I headed back to her house, hung out with a bunch of her roommates, and soon after prepared a second dinner of cherimoya, lentils, and what I think was fish. I say “I think” not to imply that Trish cooked up some sort of mystery meat, but just to say I don’t really remember. The rest of the night’s events kind of shadow over the rest of the evening. We ate, hung out, bonded about all being from Madison but actually being in Peru (I miss the terrace so much, the square, remember this? etc.), and went to the internet to look at plane tickets and research where Trish and I were going to be spending the next 13 or so days. And then I ran to the bathroom and starting vomiting more violently than I have in probably my entire life. I thought blood was going to come out. In hindsight, I really should have expected this. My meat was a strange pink color, I ate a chicken foot…these are not normal things for me, and I don’t think are actually normal for anybody else. I’ve since heard you’re not supposed to eat the meat on the chicken foot. Either way, what was done was done, and I was condemned to four days of two-way bodily fluid traffic. The long-lasting result of this experience: because they were the last things I ate before puking, I can never eat lentils or cherimoya again. Just thinking about these two foods makes me want to vomit. Ugh. But don’t worry, I’m still totally cool with chicken feet.
While I couldn’t eat or do much, after a couple of bedridden days I forced myself to explore the city. After all, when is the next chance I’ll have to be in Lima? I could finally eat food, and while I spent the majority of my time outside of the house in pristine, European style coffee shops (in both design and cost), I was able to find my way to a Chinese restaurant and a cheeseburger stand. I was done with Peruvian food. These coffee shops were located in Miraflores, the hipster district of Lima if there were to be one. It was actually a really incredible place, with parks everywhere, boutique shops, bookstores, and all; there was even a Starbucks and McDonald’s there (and for some reason a John F. Kennedy Park). Despite those last facts, it was a really intriguing place with lots of modern and historical Peruvian culture. I loved it. It reminds me a bit of the DuPont Circle region of Washington D.C., which, when I visited Matt last March, I decided I would live in if I ever moved to D.C.
I usually kept my hood up as I was walking to guard against the constant drizzle and cold and to blend in a bit more. Blond hair and blue eyes isn’t really a normal thing down here. There are lots of stares…some out of curiosity, others malice. An odd phenomenon occurred, though, when I walked around with my hood up, which was actually the opposite effect I hoped my hood would have. Whenever I walked with my hood down I would get some stares, but could wander the streets unmolested. This was not the case otherwise. Apparently–and this could be a universal thing–when I walked with the hood up it was as if I was holding a sign that said “Drugs. Any and all kind of drugs, I want them.” Wherever I walked, I would hear the quiet whisper of “hombre, hierba/marijuana/bud/ay-yay(cocaine)/heroína?” I even did a small experiment and walked past the same guys a few times throughout the day, both with and sans hood. With the hood, I’m sketchy. Without, just a gringo. It was flawless.
Two things I learned in Lima: how to get drugs and how to get violently ill. But in all seriousness, I met some incredible people, saw some crazy things, and learned a whole lot. The sickness eventually couldn’t stop me from going to clubs, parties at friend’s apartments, and enjoying every minute of my time there. Being the first large part of my trip, it was arguably one of the most meaningful and worthwhile. I can’t wait to go back to experience everything I either didn’t have the time or energy to do. One day, hopefully soon.