Friday, May 29, 2015

May 28-29, 2015

I’m currently sitting at the Lima Airport waiting for my flight to Cusco. The working portion of my trip is all wrapped up and the vacationing portion is about to begin.

Yesterday I completed my work at Villa Maria. It’s an all girls school so the audience dynamics are a little different. I took questions after each of the programs and the kids were pretty good with their English even though it wasn’t a bilingual school. One student asked me a couple of questions before her neighboring classmates informed me that she was a very good singer. So I invited her up on the stage to sing something. She was game and did a very creditable job of “Let it Go” a cappella. She came up afterwards and posed with her friend for pictures.

Our hostess, Cath-erine, was very gracious and generous during my two day visit at this school. But there was something about her… I finally realized that she looks a little like my sister, America, did when we were younger. It made me feel very brotherly.

Jamie, the other Dream On storyteller currently in Peru,  had the day off and generously decided to come along and check out my show. He is a fount of wisdom and I got lots of good constructive observations from him. Getting to know him and his wife, Diane, has been a real pleasure on this trip.

Had a little traffic accident on the way home. No one was hurt and even our taxi seemed untouched. The other taxi was so covered with dents that it was hard to tell if it had taken any damage. The two drivers spent a lot of time yelling at each other while stalled in their lane of traffic. An exchange of money helped pacify the offended driver and we took off again.

Last night was the traditional celebratory dinner hosted by Dream On. We ate at a place called
Rincón Chami, a place Diane spotted in her used copy of Lonely Planet. Food was totally great. Again.
Today I worked at a school in the same district as our apartment. All three programs went well and then it was time to head back to the apartment to do some last minute packing and leave. Spotted these two on the street. Kind of a poignant moment.

A final picture with Ronaldo, our taxi driver and then it was off to the airport. I’m hoping I’ll be able to upload this all at the Hostel in Cusco.


I made it to our hostel safe and sound. This place has wifi but I haven't been successful in connecting with any of my e-mail accounts so hopefully this posting will serve as proper notice of my arrival for people who are expecting more personal communication (Like you, Karen!)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 25 - 27, 2015

Chorillos, near Lima, Peru – I’ve been a little remiss in keeping up with this blog. The truth is I’ve been spending my time taking in Peru and the people around me and I haven’t had an opportunity to sit down and write about it. And now I’ve arrived at the final two days of storytelling. It doesn’t seem possible.

Monday was a day to clean house, do laundry and get to know our upstairs neighbors Jamie and Diane.
They are a lovely couple from near Winnipeg. Jamie is here for a month of school appearances and then they will be following my footsteps to Cusco and Machu Picchu.

The rooftop apartment that they are in has a lovely patio where I’ve gone to do Tai Chi once or twice. From there you can hear some of Peru’s military recruits shouting their chants during morning exercises . You can also see the hills above Lima where there is a Christ figure blessing the world below.

Monday night we all went back to Travesura Marina. We arrived just as they were closing, but when the waitress, Cynthia saw us, she recognized me and greeted me like a long lost grandfather. We were all invited in and given the royal treatment.

I had a more reasonable dinner of ceviche and causo, a dish made of mashed potatoes and crab meat. The restaurant gave us all a free round of shots of Pisco Sour. Pisco was familiar to me from my tour in Peru, where I also had a Pisco Sour. Chile and Peru both claim Pisco as their own. Pablo and Sergio say there is a difference
in the flavors, but I would have to spend more time investigating that claim to confirm it.

Tuesday it was back to work for me at San Ignacio de Ricalde, the school I was at on my third day of work in Lima. Things went a bit better for me but it was still hard work. It didn’t help that there was a cajón class being held just outside the gym where I was performing.

Tuesday night Pablo and I had dinner together in our apartment. Then Jamie knocked on our door. Sergio wasn’t feeling well. For some reason he had assumed it would be OK to drink water straight from the tap. This is an idea that even the locals find appalling. I’ve always used bottled water in my Latin American tours and particularly in Lima, where, to me, the water even smells bad, I’ve been careful about keeping my contact with raw tap water down to a minimum. The end result of this all was that Jamie had lost his tour manager for the next day’s work. Flurried e-mails, texts and What’s App messages ensued. We decided that since my Spanish was fairly reasonable, Pablo would accompany Jamie to his school on Wednesday, and I would go to mine alone. Pablo would meet me later that day at the school I was working at, Villa Maria de Miraflores. Everything went just fine, thanks in part to the regular taxi drivers we’ve been using, Ronaldo and Juan Carlos. By the end of the day Sergio was feeling a bit better and we all had dinner at our apartment and then left Sergio for more rest while we got ice cream at the local mall.

Malls are, of course, largely the same the world over. Still, you can find intriguing variations in the stores. Like this foot spa that uses fish to get the old pedicure going. Not sure if the fish are then marketed to the local restaurants…

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 24, 2015

Today Pablo and I wanted to explore Barranco, a district just south of Miraflores but north of Chorillos where we’re staying. This neighborhood has more of a bohemian feel than Miraflores with a little of the taste the Chilean city of Val Paraiso. Barranco has produced:

 famous authors,

colorful doors and balconies

 lots of statues,

and run down buildings scattered throughout.

But Barranco is probably most noted for El Puente de losSuspiros, The Bridge of Sighs. Built in 1876, the bridge developed a romantic reputation and there are all kinds of tragic love stories surrounding it. Most famously a singer named Chabuca Granda wrote and recorded a song about the bridge that gave it notoriety around the world. This is where we were headed, but on the way we noticed a bicycle that looked as faithful as any dog that has ever waited for its master. There’s a story here.

We approached the bridge from a stairway filled with flowers. Tradition says that when you see the bridge for the first time, if you hold your breath while you cross it, you will be granted your heart's desire. That’s what Pablo and I both did. I kept my mind fixed on Karen, so I have high hopes of being reunited.
After crossing the bridge we walked back onto it for some photos. The mural just east of the bridge was quite evocative. It’s another example of how visceral the arts are here. If I may make a generali-zation, I think art is taken much more seriously as a crucial part of life in Latin American countries than it is in the United States.

Pablo and I headed toward the sea, which always seems to be our compass point when we’re out exploring. I was intrigued by this particular street vendor.
"I will write your name on a grain of rice."
But the idea raised more philosophical questions than I was ready to dwell on at the particular moment, so I went on to explore the nearby well, which had locks of love – as it were – attached to the chain holding the bucket. 
Each of the locks had names of couples on it. Pablo and I agreed that we weren’t quite sure how the connection between love and locking was made. You can see it, for example, in words like wedlock. To me love is a more opening thing. But there I go again getting into philosophical issues, when I should be absorbing the life around me.

"Hot revolution/Music for the teeth."
It was getting time to get some eats. We passed an enigmatic sign or two
"Tourist restaurant."
but finally stumbled upon a restaurant which was clearly following an "honesty is the best policy" strategy. As impressed as we were with  their integrity, Pablo and I found a more off the beaten track restaurant that hadn’t totally succumbed to the trendy-cosmopolitan rigueur that many of it’s neighbors had. While, of course, still being a few steps above a dive, of which there are plenty.

From the beginning of our day’s peregrinations Pablo and I were on the lookout, as we always are, for ice cream. The restaurant where we had eaten did not offer us much hope. The ice cream place they preferred was closed. They didn’t think much of the other alternative. Ever hopeful we set out anyway. We finally did find a trio of Americans walking down a street with a dish of ice cream in hand. They directed us to a place that we would have totally missed had we not run into them. Blu’s Gelato del Barrio features gelatos and sorbets using South American, and especially Peruvian flavors. I went for the Lucuma once again. It was delicious.
 We began to make our way back up to Miraflores, passing an old streetcar and an expired Theremin concert. I was sorry to have missed the Theremin concert. That would have been a blast.

The bus system in Lima is an anarchic mix of mostly private lines (think, each bus owned by a different person) and one public one. As a result, there really are no accurate maps showing where the buses go, because in theory that could change from day to day. We took our first private bus trip (15¢) up to Miraflores to do a little shopping. The following walk took us by a park that was a memorial to the veterans who died in the war against Chile. Chile has historically had several conflicts with neighboring countries and there are passionate sentiments all the way around.

After a little shopping we managed to arrive back at Kennedy park just in time for dancing!

Every Saturday and Sunday there is a community dance at Kennedy park. Everyone takes part.

And while the people are dancing the cats are…

Yep. It was chow time for the park kitties. They must go through a prodigious amount of food because, believe you me, there are a lot of cats.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 23, 2015

Today, a Saturday, was my last day of work this week. My understanding is that in Peru the kids get Sundays and Mondays off. Had a great time at La Universidad del Pacifico. The English level at this school was also quite low, but there was active teacher engagement and the students seemed genuinely interested in trying to learn.

On the way home I saw the train from the old song, “This train is bound for glory…” Or maybe the Virgen de Guadelupe is returning. Hard to tell.

Then it was time to head for a lunch. Pablo spotted a spot on our way to Sonia’s the other day, so we headed back through Chorillos to check it out. Passed this birthday palace on the way. It’s the little clashes of worlds that interest me most.

The restaurant was another seafood place (no surprise there) called La Travesura Marina. It was a spiffy looking restaurant
with lively and pert mesineras eager to provide a successful eating experience for the gringo that had just walked in. I was fighting a bit of a cold and the idea of a little fish stew sounded good to me.  I was kind of going for minimal but the waitress assured me that I wanted something more concentrated.
I was not prepared for what arrived at the table.

My lunch lay lurking somewhere in there and so I gamely tried to do it in. It was too much for me. I got about ¾ of the way through and then I was stuffed. It was also really salty. On the whole, a great restaurant and Pablo and I will probably dine there again with the new story teller that is arriving tonight. But maybe I'll stick with the more modest platters.

Jaime Oliviero is a story teller from Canada who will be outstaying me here in Lima. He and his wife, Diane, will be here for a month and they arrive tonight. He reminds me a little of Tom Pease. I’m looking forward to meeting him. His tour manager will be Sergio,
who has already arrived to get things ready. Sergio hails from Chile, so I am once again getting exposed to the distinct accent that marks Chilean Castellano. Sergio's is pretty mild as accents go, but there's that familiar dropping of S'es

Pablo, Sergio and I went to the market to pick up a few necessaries for life around the apartment. There we ran into another street performer, also a statue, but with a slightly
different schtick. 1 sol was all it took to get him moving and into friendly mode.

But wait! There’s more! Pablo and I got free tickets to: Brisas del Titicaca, a night club specializing in Peruvian folk dance. The show started at 9:45 and ran until 2:00 am. It is, of course, named for the Peruvian lake located south of Cusco. The moniker has been a favorite of English speaking adolescent boys ever since English speaking adolescent boys became aware of it.

But Pablo and I were there to take in the folk dance.
This was another one of those instances where the action was faster than my camera could record, so I only got a couple of photos. As a veteran of a number of international folk dance festivals in Europe and North America,  I had, perhaps, unrealistic expectations. But the costumes were grand, and the dancing very energetic and much better than the food. Fatigue set in and we weren’t able stay the whole show.  But it was an adventure while we were there.

May 22, 2015

Lima, Peru – The rest of the day, Pablo and I spent heading into downtown to watch Lima’s famous water/light show: Circuito Magico del Agua. Taking a wrong turn on the way, we found a cordoned off plaza which was apparently waiting for the Prime Minister of China. Honestly, if that guy doesn’t stop following us around I’m going to get a court order.

When I was young our family used to head into downtown Chicago for a day at the beach. Frequently we would end our days at Buckingham Fountain for the water show they would put on, usually starting just after sunset. Those were simpler days, the lights were colorful, but the show was largely a display of water going higher or going lower and lights getting brighter or getting darker. There was a control room under the fountain where, in the old days, a… a water artist, I guess you’d call him… did the honors, improvising the show and playing off the reaction of the crowd.

Technology has come a long ways since then. Setting the show aside, the fountains here (somewhere around a dozen of them) are beautiful and creative. It’s a lovely park with just a little taste of Crowne Plaza, one of my favorite places in the world. The city has installed a terrific sound system which plays music (Handel’s water music, The Brandenburgs, etc.) at a tasteful volume throughout the park. Unlike Buckingham Fountain, it’s not free. But the $1.50 or so charge is minimal.

The main event is amazing. I tried taking pictures, but my camera couldn’t handle the fast pace of the changes and I couldn’t figure out how to get it switched over to video in the dark. In any case, I realized that I was in danger of becoming one of those chumps who misses the life in front of them by spending it behind a camera. So I put the camera away and assumed that I could find some clips on Youtube to link to on this blog. I was right. You can see a sample here. The show begins about minute four of this particular upload. The presentation is, as I was saying, amazing – using laser and video technology that I couldn’t even have imagined as a kid. To say nothing of the score that accompanies the display. It was all done by computer, of course, and I found myself missing the repartee between the audience and the “water artist” of Buckingham Fountain. (I should note that Buckingham Fountain's show has long been computerized as well.) But it was still an eye-popping show, and well worth the trip downtown to see it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

May 22, 2015

Miraflores near Lima – Wow! What a day. Came back last night with 123 photos. So much happened that I’ll probably have to do this in installments. With lots of pictures!

We set out for Miraflores, a trendy and hip district not too far from our humble lodgings and easily accessible by metro. Waiting for the bus, I’m constantly seeing people hauling things from one place to another. What they’re carrying and how they’re carrying it is always a surprise. 

Getting to Miraflores was a snap. From there we decided to head toward the coast and check out some of the lovely and famous parks Miraflores is known for. The distinctive nature of this district was immediately apparent in the people we were passing on the street. Miraflores is very cosmopolitan with lots of extranjeros like me visiting and staying in the area. The shops are upscale and expensive. The streets everywhere in Lima have been exceptionally clean, but in Miraflores they’re even cleaner, more recently maintained and much more modern.

Our first park was an eye opener. Right away we began seeing cats. Lots of cats. Everywhere. The story is that this park was once overrun by mice. In desperation the people of the community brought in cats to keep the mouse population down. The cats flourished, and the mice were accordingly dispatched. In gratitude to the cats the city now keeps the park as a cat sanctuary and feeds them daily. (I’m not making this up). They’re all quite friendly, though they flagrantly disregard the signs posted to protect the lawn and the flowers.

Amidst the cats was this colorful statue of un toro. That fellow in back?
He’s cleaning the butt. Really, Pablo and I have seen tons of city employees whose job it is to keep the city clean. And they do a good job.

Plus we saw more cats. And this dog, carefully leashed, but ready for action in case anyone wanted to let him loose.
Doubtless he came from the hostel immediately across the street from the park.

Also across the street was La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora deMilagro.
Beautiful inside as well as out, with a photogenic stairway to the balcony.

Walking further down the street, Pablo and I saw the sign we’ve been looking for ever since we arrived in Peru.
It wasn’t a hot day, but any day is a good day for ice cream. Pablo got lucuma, the same flavor as that torte I described a few days ago. I got a really nice dark chocolate. They were delicious and helped sustain us through what turned out to be a long walk before we came to more sustenance.

Casinos can be found the world over and Peru is no exception. Here I am, finishing my ice cream in front one named “Mardigras”. Peru being a catholic country traditionally there are plenty of carnival traditions. I’m not certain about the casino connection.

It wasn’t long before we made the coast. It was a great view from where we were, atop the cliffs, but we had a jones to make it down to the shoreline itself, a somewhat lengthy and complicated prospect.

A busy highway runs between the bottom of the cliff and the sea. And then there’s getting down the cliff itself.

Our path took us by some lovely bright colors which contrasted nicely with the general atmosphere of grey.

We found banana vendors, something you don’t see back in Sarona, on the path, along with other vendors and exercise stations, as well as an outfit providing ultra-light rides for those with the plato to burn. Pablo and I were traveling light, money-wise, so shook off the plane ride and continued our trek for El Parque del Amor where, allegedly, our path to the beach lay.
Aside from sporting a very romantic (and huge) sculpture, this famous park has a wall filled with mosaics and poetic dichos,
 “Love is a butterfly that wanders at night.”
“You are atop the infinite sea.”
 And then, thankfully, another much sought after sign.
Bathrooms in Peru, like in much of the world outside the United States are frequently “Pay Potties.” I remember a time when you could find pay toilets in the United a tradition I think we’re well rid of. These toilets were “no charge.” A welcome surprise.

We overshot our road to the shore and ended up at the lighthouse, no longer working.

So we turned around and headed back. After asking directions several times we finally managed to make our way down to the beach. I got a chance to get my feet wet in the South Pacific. And we watched the surfers do their stuff. Surf lessons were nearly as expensive as the ultra-light.

Pablo and I were content to watch. Hunger began to catch up with us though, and the way up looked more intimidating than the way down. There was nothing to do but tighten our belts and head back up.

Eventually we made it back up and over towards Kennedy Park, stopping for a quick bite in one of the many, many eateries along the streets circumscribing the park. Kennedy Park is, unsurprisingly, named after the iconic President and located near the park we first encountered and filled with…

Yep. More cats. Really the pictures don’t do justice to the sheer density of the felines. I’m familiar with the phrase “herding cats,” but Peru is the first country I know of to do so successfully.

Across from Kennedy Park we found a café where we could buzz up and get some tiramisu, the national dish of me. Said café was also the home of barista, Sara Hughes.
Surely you’ve heard of her? She apparently had the day off so we weren’t able to get photos with her.

That pretty much wrapped up the Miraflores part of our trip. Next it's off to downtown Lima where, so Scott has told me, there's a really spectacular Light and Water show.