Leaving Lima

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.

"Te quiero mucho." Goodbye gifts from my roommates.

Volunteers having fun, once again, in Barranco.

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.

Showing off their artwork

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.

The infamous moto-taxi (euphemism for rickshaw?). Yet another fun obstacle to try to avoid while driving in Lima.

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.

Peruvian ice cream trucks: The D'Onofrio man. Oddly, we match.

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.

Paparazzi? Swarms of people asking for photos deluged Mark (the tall one) and me (the yellow dress) on the beach in Punta Sal. Photo by Romana.

Posing for the cameras. Maybe they thought I was an Olsen twin? Photo by Romana.

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.

No comment necessary. The cuteness speaks for itself.

This little doll comes in with her hair braided perfectly every day. Future beauty queen in the making.


  1. I loved this post!!! Iam from Lima.. and i think you have made an excellent description of my country!!! I like very much your blog, Iam also making one for my own… iam just begining, so your blog was very inspired !!

  2. Pingback: » Helados D’Onofrio’s Classic Horn Maybe Extinct~ personal.amy-wong.com – A Blog by Amy Wong.

  3. I absolutely love this post. Having lived in Sri Lanka for a good part of my life, the Rickshaw brought things back. I love your passion in your writing and in particular your photography. Very nice! Love the little toys that you got as a parting gift. They are too cute! Wishing you the very best at your next destination. Your blog is a beautiful way of showcasing your travels!

    • Thank you Adnan for the very kind words! Lima inspired a lot of passion in me, so perhaps that is why it comes across in my words. It was such a colorful, sensational experience from start to finish. Thanks again for reading.

  4. Haha! Except for the cow heart you might as well have been describing Santiago, Chile. I’m moving back there in December. Although, granted most Chileans say they are better drivers than Peruvians I think it’s because their pedestrian point system is more balanced.

    • Sara, I haven’t been to Santiago yet, but I hope to in the near future! I am not surprised that there similarities (just don’t tell any Peruvians that I said that, or I’ll be stoned as a matter of national pride).

      Thanks for reading!

  5. I was in Lima and Ica in the summer of 2010. Your blog brought back some wonderful memories. Not to mention slightly scary memories of flying down the road with the driver weaving in and out of traffic. And, yes, the children are adorable.

  6. I grew up in Argentina, and have always wanted to visit Peru. Your list of observations bring back many fond memories of the time I spent in the Southern Cone. I haven’t been bacn since 2001, and I miss it dearly…

    • I am so glad to have been able to inspire some fond memories! I hope you are able to visit Peru some day. I am so excited to visit Argentina in just a few weeks. It’ll be very interesting to compare to some of the other places in South America I’ll have visited. Thanks for reading!

  7. melissakoski

    This post is beautiful, touching and so funny. Love that little scrunchy faced boy! Seriously wonderful post….one of the most intriguing I’ve read in a while! Thanks for the perfect snap shot of Lima.

    • Melissa, thank you so much for the kind words! Isn’t he adorable? I couldn’t take a single “normal” picture of him, because he insisted on making a different funny face every time I tried. Thank you again!

  8. Elizabeth

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!! I loved reading your blog… and very interested to know why they were so interested in taking pictures. That must have been a little weird at first!

    • Thank you Elizabeth! Yes, it was definitely strange to be approached while just sitting and reading on the beach. I wonder if it was some kind of promotional effort, or maybe they just thought I was the weird one!

  9. Excellent blog, although it’s good to keep people’s eyes open about volunteering. I was a volunteer teacher on Galapagos and experienced similar with the monsters, ahem, I mean angels. I only spent a few days in Lima but loved it, much warmer than where I live – Bogota.

    • Vicki, you are so right. Volunteer work (particularly working with children) is not glamorous all the time, and comes with many challenges. I wrote about those challenges in some of my earlier posts, if you are interested in reading more.

      And speaking of Colombia, I expect to be there in a few months! I can’t wait. Thanks for commenting!

  10. What a beautiful post! I especially love the photo of the little boy with his nose all screwed up 🙂
    It’s always sad to leave but a friend of mine once said, don’t say good bye, say “see you later.” I look forward to reading more of your adventures.

    • Thank you Tali! I know it’s wrong to pick favorite students, but I think you know which one it would be if I had to choose. 😉

      And yes, I love the advice to say “see you later” instead of “goodbye.” It makes leaving just a bit easier. Thank you for reading!

  11. Hope you blog from the rest of your trip- great post. You will surely enjoy Bolivia as well- wonderful country! A lot of your observations in Peru is quite similar as in rest in S. America. They have a lot in comment but still each place is so unique and speical =)
    Buen viaje!

    • Thank you for the lovely comment! And yes, I expect to find many of the idiosyncrasies of Lima and Peru in the rest of this magical continent. I suppose since it was my first visit to South America, they stood out to me very distinctly. I can’t wait to find what makes so many of the other places here unique and special, as you said. Thanks again!

    • Kelly, I hope you enjoyed those anticuchos! I was so hesitant to try them at first, but so pleasantly surprised by the intense flavor. I crave it now! Thanks so much for commenting, fellow Peru-lover!

    • Cusco is such a magical place! I’m actually there right now, supremely lucky to have beautiful weather during the start of the rainy season. I’m glad to have inspired some nostalgia for your experiences there. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  12. joahnadiyosa

    Wow. This post warmly touched my heart… Those faces of little children are so angelic, their smiles reflect the beauty of Lima. Just cute. 🙂

    • Michael, thank you so much for reading and for the kind comment! I would love to hear more about your experiences in South Korea, I’ll be sure to check out your blog. How lucky are we that we get to explore these wonderful places?

  13. l3astofall

    Wow, this made me so nostalgic, which is weird since, though peruvian, I rarely think of my country. But your mentioning of anticuchos, the ice cream bikes, the gringos, it all just reminded me of it. Anyways, glad you had a great time and no problems with las piranitas! Good blog

    • I am so glad to have been able to capture a little bit of Peru in this post! It is obviously an incredibly diverse place, and every corner seems to have its own culture and associated nostalgia, but I guess certain things ring true for the whole country. I am sad to be leaving for Bolivia tomorrow, but I know I will return some day soon. Thank you so much for reading.

    • Thank you Emily! Since I left Lima a week and a half ago, I have been exploring Cusco. I head off to Bolivia tomorrow and will travel south until I reach Buenos Aires. I adore this continent and can’t wait to see more of it. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

    • Isn’t it an incredible country? I really hope you are able to pursue volunteering here once you are finished with school, and I am so glad to have added to your excitement! Thank you so much for commenting.

    • Go for it, Issy! My volunteering experience was wonderful (though very challenging). If you find the right organization (which luckily, I seem to have) and keep a positive attitude, it can be a life-changing experience. Best of luck and thank you for commenting!

  14. joehd

    I´m so happy that you really had a good time in Perú, (Im peruvian by the way), and was awesome have found your post. as i can see you did an exelent job here, thank you. i know those kids are really missing you! come back soon.

    • Thank you Joe! I adore Peru (if you can’t tell) and I plan to be back in the near future. I’m not sure the kiddies miss me, but I sure miss them, even with all of their caracol-murdering, glue-eating tendencies.

  15. What a beautiful story to share! I have always wanted to volunteer work overseas and help others. I believe the Philippines will be my first stop. Thank you for the tips and I hope your journey is wonderful and self-powering.

    P.s – Congrats on Freshly Pressed. Love the background pic – amazing!
    All the Best,
    Ezzy ♥ ♥

    • Ezzy, the Philippines would be an incredible place to visit and volunteer! I am excited to hear that you want to volunteer abroad. I really think it is one of the best ways to get to know a country and its people. It’s not always glamorous, but it’s usually more genuine than passing through as a tourist.

      Thank you for reading!

    • Jane, thank you so much for commenting. My heart is indeed heavy, but I am inspired daily by the beautiful experiences traveling brings me. It doesn’t tug at my heart-strings as much as working in Lima did, but beauty is a good distraction sometimes.

    • Thank you Dian! Yes, I think there are many similarities in various countries among the things that I have personally found unusual or different, coming from the United States. Indonesia is high on my list of places to visit some day (especially now that I know it is similar to my beloved Lima!). 😉

      Thank you again for reading!

  16. Awesome blog! I am planning a trip to Chile and Argentina next year so I will have to read up on you adventures. So far the farthest south I have been – other than home (PR) has been Ecuador, so I look forward to your updates. Safe travels!

    • Jacob, thank you so much for reading, and for your very kind words! I know I’ll be back to Lima one day, and hopefully that trip will include seeing my wonderful little monsters again. Thanks!

  17. akosigabz

    Touching sharing. It’s funny how some of the oddities of Lima can also be found here in the Philippines (we also have a one-hour late “Filipino Time”). Truly, letting go isn’t easy. But you’re statement that you’ll come back is very good. For our heart is where our treasure is or perhaps our treasure is where our heart is. 🙂

  18. Your post made me smile. While I never volunteered there, I spent a month in Peru a few years back, lazing on beaches, seeing the historical sites and random off-the-path locals, and talking to the natives. You’re right, Peruvian kids ARE very darn cute. 🙂 Awesome pics. Enjoy the rest of your stay in S. America- where are your next destinations?

    • Thank you so much for the comment, Cristina! Peru is such a wonderful place, it will be difficult to pry myself away. My next stop is Bolivia, followed by Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, before coming home for the holidays. Colombia and Venezuela are hopeful spots for the summer (well, the South American summer at least).

  19. basangsisiw

    Your post is inspirational with a mix of hilarious facts about life in Lima. Am just a bit surprised at how those things you’ve observed seems to have likeness to my own culture (I am a Filipino by the way).
    Anyway, letting go is never easy, but you know the good memories you take with you will make you get through it all… keep touching lives, especially those of the little ones! 🙂

  20. My parents volunteered in Peru many years ago. They brought me back the warmest blankets I’ve ever encountered. I also love music from Peru and the Andes. I enjoyed your post and wish you the best with your next endeavor.

    BTW You look like an Olsen Twin.

    • Ahh, Peruvian blankets, sweaters, and textiles have ignited a new-found interest in fabrics within me. I have spent more money than I anticipated here in Cusco, mostly on the beautiful handicrafts all around me. And you mentioned the music: it echoes within you for days, I swear.

      Thank you for the lovely words and for your interest in my blog. Stay tuned for more! (And my 14 year-old self would have died of joy from hearing that I look like an Olsen twin, so thank you, I suppose). 😉

    • Not yet, Ronnie! I have experienced a few very festive days (por exemplo, when Peru beat Paraguay in futbol, or several Limeno birthdays, or the Day of the Dead), but not yet a carnival like the one you’re describing. I’d love to one day!

      Thank you for your lovely words.

  21. nmetzler

    I spent seven months in Haiti. I have to say that many things on your list are the same. Perhaps Americans are the odd ones in the world?

    Love the pictures.

    • Natasha, that’s a very interesting observation. My sister is currently in South Africa, and she has mentioned several similar comparisons as well. I guess it is a reminder of how different our North American lifestyle really is compared to so many other parts of the world.

      Thank you so much for commenting, and for your insight.

  22. Redandgonzo

    I am sad to happen upon your blog as you are leaving Lima—we have survived here for about 4+ months of a 2+ year adventure.

    But I am interested in your future volunteer work.

    We are eating homemade anticuchos for dinner tonight and Peruivan children are adorable!

  23. So sweet! Fantastic blog! I hit the road when I first graduated college and headed to China for 3 years. My first year was spent volunteering, and I had a phenominal experience. Looks like you’re having one too, and I absolutely love all your pictures and how you’ve set up your site! You’re an inspiration!

    • Thanks, Jacqueline! Traveling and volunteering hand-in-hand is a fabulous way to get to know a new country. I am a huge supporter of both (and, as a combination, an awesome way of life). Thank you again for your very kind words!

    • Jaja, Andres, I speak on behalf of North Americans who harbor certain expectations when vacationing. You know that I adore Lima for all of her charms, imperfections, and eccentricities. La extraño mucho!

  24. Sounds like an amazing trip! My brother went to Guatamala after his senior year of high school and came back with some wonderful experiences– not to mention A LOT better of a handle on the Spanish language. Number #1 on his list:

    1) Cows and Bulls (massive horns included) won’t yield to humans either. And if you don’t run fast enough you could get gored!!

    Great photographs. Great blog entry!


    • That is hilarious, Happygirl! I have not yet traveled to Central America but I hope my journeys take me there (I’ll be sure to watch out for the bulls). I look forward to reading your blog. Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

  25. Hi Meghan,

    Congrats on the FP! This post is awesome and particularly helpful to me because I’m heading to Lima in 15 days now. I’ll also be visiting Cusco and heading to the Inca trail, but I cannot wait for this trip. Thanks for the bit of information that you offer about the city here!


    • Nate, I am so excited for you! Let me know if you’d like any recommendations in Lima. I also did the Inca Trail Trek and wrote about it recently (although you might prefer to wait to read about that until after you experience it yourself). One very serious suggestion though: bring plenty of toilet paper.

      • Hey Meghan, Thanks for the suggestion haha, I’ll keep that in mind. I’d definitely be open ears for any recommendations you have about Lima. One major question (not really about Lima): Did you happen to make it to the Oasis Huacachina? I fellow traveler blog-friend of mine shared this place with me and it looks quite stunning. Feel free to shoot me a quick email if you have the time with any must-get-to recommendations! Please find my email on the “contact” page at the top of my blog homepage so I don’t have to leave it in a comment.


    • Touche! 🙂

      “They must often change who want to be constant in happiness or wisdom.” I love this. Great post, and congratulations on your decision to move. Keep changing, keep traveling, but remember the places you love and visit them as often as time and money can afford.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting! I am bookmarking your blog.

    • Thanks Menaka! Apparently seafood became a lunchtime habit because that was when the catch was freshest. Of course, you can find seafood at some restaurants for dinner, but it’s frowned upon by locals. Dinner is often the smaller meal of the day (after a big multi-course lunch), and I usually ate lomos saltados (beef strips with vegetables and rice), or something along those lines.

  26. This is a beautiful post and your photos are lovely. Good luck with your move and settling in to your next destination. I know all too well how all of that feels, but it always works out. Best of wishes and congrats on being freshly pressed!

  27. About 10 years ago, we used to have those men selling ice cream on the tricycle things here in Canada. We used to call them the “dickie-dee man” and he would ring bells as he rode around. So much easier to run after than the damn ice cream truck, and not nearly as annoying! I hope there’s still some around.

    • Michelle, you are the second Canadian who has mentioned this to me! I love the idea of ice cream on a bicycle. You touch on a vital point– ease of catching the ice cream seller. Very important point.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting!

  28. AJ Balkin

    This really was an encouraging post. My current partner is wanting to do Spanish and immerse herself in Latin American culture – I will be forwarding her this blog post.


  29. My Dad just got back from Peru…he was there for a couple of weeks, and when he showed me his photos, I just fell in love with the kids of Lima! They’re so cute!! And my Dad was saying that they were always so pleasant and were so excited to meet someone from Canada…such sweethearts. 🙂

    Beautiful photos and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Christy, hearing about your dad’s adventures and the adorable Peruvian children makes me smile. They really are little dolls, aren’t they? The vast majority of people I have met in this country have been loving, accepting, and curious toward foreigners, which is no small part of my adoration of Peru. Thank you so much for your kind words!

  30. Your mention of the fickle mountian weather makes
    me wonder about the origions of my favorite article
    of clothing. The Baja Hoodie, if I’m saying it right, is
    hard to put on, but when wearing it, the bitterest cold
    goes unoticed. Strangely, though, warmer weather
    will not make me sweat.

    • Rastelly, I’m not familiar enough to know whether that originated in Peru, but I assure you a hoodie of some kind is necessary in the highlands here! The change in temperature from day to night is shocking. It sounds like you are well-prepared for a night on the Inka Trail, though! Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

    • Eva, your words are so true. I am an especially nostalgic person, so leaving any place is hard for me, let alone a place I’ve come to love as much as this one. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  31. thebigbookofdating

    Amazing post and photos, I also find your background shot breathtaking!
    I loved Peru so much, less the cities and more the jungles, but still amazing!
    Great post

    • I adore the countryside of Peru, and I would not define myself as a city girl in general, which is why I was so shocked by my love of Lima. I’m glad you also got to experience this incredible country! Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  32. Reese @ Reese's Resolution

    I’ve never been to Lima, but I’ve been to Truijillo, Peru and I’ve been to Ecuador three times. I absolutely agree with all of this! I never ate cow heart though. Did you ever get a chance to try cuy?

    • If you make it back to Peru, definitely spend some time in its capital city! It’s not charming off the bat, but it certainly grows on you.

      And no cuy yet, but check back in soon. I have a date with a guinea pig tomorrow (my last day in the country before leaving for Bolivia).

      Thanks for commenting, Reese!

    • It certainly is, Karl. I know I’ll be back some day soon. For now, I’m soaking in the rest of this beautiful country and remembering its capital city fondly. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  33. wow its really interesting i always wanted to go there and one day i will, pero no hablo espagnol.
    i am from québec and they also have ice cream bike sellers on bike but not yellow.
    now i am in mali and it seems like there is a lot of similarities between the two culture; like the relation to time. colourfull pictures i like it.

    • Guillaume, Lima is a wonderful place to learn Spanish. The people are so friendly and willing to help, and they tolerated a lot of poor Spanish from me!

      And Quebec! Oh how I love Quebec. I have visited several times and it holds a very special place in my heart. Best of luck to you in your journeys in Mali! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

    • Mikalee, the answer is nothing! Peru has made me happy as a clam. I am sad to be leaving Cusco in a few days, but I have faith that the rest of this wonderful continent will bring more joy and adventures.

      Thanks for commenting!

  34. You already know how I feel about the boy with the scrunched up face… I remember cow heart and the corn that looks genetically modified were among my very first meals in Peru. Good to know they are still delicacies! And I hope you know kazoo ice cream made my day…

    • Isn’t he the cutest thing ever? Every time I tried to take a picture of him, he made a different funny face. He was the class clown and the class genius, and also my favorite student (if I’m allowed to say I have a favorite). Thanks Marta!

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