I left Lima this morning with a heavy heart and a stuffed llama. My volunteer work has come to an end, and my journeys from this point forward will be solo traveling. I leave behind my compañeros, amigos and niñitos, and have to hope I’ll find as much joy in my next destination as I have in Lima.
My last few days working in Villa El Salvador were far less frustrating than they’ve been in the past, perhaps because I didn’t care to dwell on the small annoyances on the eve of my leaving. On Friday, Senorita Marina told the class that it was my last day and I wouldn’t be returning to them. Their smiles disappeared and the turned to look at me with those enormous glossy puppy-dog eyes, as if asking, “Why are you leaving? What did we do wrong?” La profesora had them say “Gracias” and “Thank you” and sing me a heart-warming, if imperfect, rendition of “Bah Bah Black Sheep.”
I cried. I couldn’t help myself. I can’t believe how attached I’ve gotten to the little
monsters angels. Behind each of their faces in my mind is a wealth of memories and idiosyncracies and a new respect for the individuality and creativity of small children.
Pulling up roots and moving on is hard, especially when you didn’t particularly expect or hope for those roots to grow in the first place. Lima has been very good to me, and I know I will be back someday. As a tribute to this lovely and underappreciated city, I have compiled a list of quirks and eccentricities I’ve noticed in the past five weeks. These are not necessarily isolated to Lima or Peru, and the list is far from exhaustive, but they are things I will always associate with my time there. Enjoy.
Observations in and around Lima
1. Cars will not yield to humans. Do not tempt them.
2. A stop sign is really a suggestion to give a courtesy honk before flying through an intersection. A stop light is a suggestion to yield. Lanes? Just rough guidelines.
3. Peruvian time (“la hora Peruana”) is different from the time that appears on the clock. Just subtract an hour from what you see and go take a nap.
4. Ice cream is not sold in musical trucks like in the United States, but by men on bicycles. They dress in all yellow and toot kazoos to attract attention. The first time I heard the sound, I thought it was the death cry of an exotic bird.
5. Cold is everyone’s greatest enemy. My students come to school on days when the high is 78 degrees Fahrenheit dressed in three or four layers, and old women shiver when they see me wearing a t-shirt or tank-top outside.
6. Everything tastes better with some ají on it. Everything. Including fried bananas.
7. Gringos are apparently interesting enough to warrant random photo taking on the beach.
8. Sea food is served only for lunch, when the catch is freshest, not for dinner.
9. Men here like to express their appreciation for female beauty openly and sometimes offensively. I have never felt seriously threatened, but I still bristle at the “kissy noise” method of cat-calling.
10. The worst dancers in Lima are better than the best in the US. (Ok, exaggerating, but only a little).
11. Eating cow heart (anticuchos de corazon) is very common and surprisingly delicious, but best enjoyed in dim lighting.
12. Peruvian children are the cutest on the planet.