Vets: For international transportation, I’ve heard good things about Petwings.
Vets: For international transportation, I’ve heard good things about Petwings.
A few years ago, when I published my book on my time in Bangladesh, I received so many questions about publishing. Back then, in 2013, self-publishing was called “vanity press” — publishing as if it was for one’s own vanity. That seems an age ago as social media has made us all creators and storytellers — Instagram and its television channel, YouTube, and Facebook Stories (watch my month-long farewell to Peru on those channels or on the video page of this website), are all “vanity press” as they are self-published. Of course the paper book did not disappear as some feared. We simply gained more independence in how, where, and to whom, we can share out stories. Maybe we are more vainglorious…
Even with all these new choices, some media are still harder to edit than others. Take PDFs. Adobe Acrobat owns that format almost completely. One can buy a license for $180 per year. It does, however, make editing PDFs acrobatic (had, had, to play on the words!). As I work on my many projects, and my next book (a paper version about Peru), I am glad to have the freedom to be flexible.
Just as story telling has moved beyond the book, so have other media, like chocolate, taken on the terminology of books. My favorite chocolate shop in Peru, El Cacaotal, calls itself an “edible library” — that should encourage reading!
Keeping up with all the forms of communication is a bit like a chariot race. In between my website/blog, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and podcasting, something may have to go by the wayside when I get back out exploring in my next country…
As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, we are all content creators now. I started the M’s Adventures blog/website when I moved to Bangladesh in 2011 (you can read one of my early blog postings here), and since then, I’ve created a book for each country I’ve lived in. As I will soon depart Peru, I was looking through photos to put together my book. The previous books have been published on Lulu.
But, this time, as I’m learning how to make movies on iMovie, I thought I’d make a “videobook” or moving picture book, a love letter to Peru. I may also make a paper book, but I’ll see how I feel when I’ve edited 8,000 photos and taught myself more iMovie. For now, here’s a film trailer so you can see what how it’s going. Don’t worry, the content of the body of the show will be less dramatic (film production really teaches one how much music changes the mood of a piece).
Here is the video trailer for “M’s Adventures in Peru: A Love Letter”
Or if you prefer to watch it on my YouTube channel, here is the link.
I have become my own film crew, my own makeup artist, director, script writer, sound crew, caterer, gaffer (okay, not yet), lighting director, film editor… you get the idea. Recently, I needed some new headshots. What, I have to put on real clothes?! So I took out my makeup and put on “outdoor” clothes, set up my studio, and did a photo shoot. I even did two wardrobe changes.
The photo is from an art exhibition at the Ministry of Culture in Lima called, “Peruvian Beauty” by Yayo Lopez, and it included people from Peru of all ages and types, but the beauty on the poster shows a good example of a headshot.
What I learned from doing the photo shoot was that I’m glad that I bought a remote control for my phone, use good lighting (nothing beats sunlight), use plain backgrounds, have the camera at eye level, and take many photos. A trick I used to get a smile to reach my eyes was to do some silly photos as these would make me laugh thus causing some of the jollity to reach my eyes for the more normal headshots.
Staying indoors is giving me time to look through old photos and try to organize them. But mostly, I’ve been teaching myself how to use iMovie, GarageBand, and other tech tools for my blog.
A friend suggested that I name my studio space (my dining room table). Clearly it has to be Madventures Studios.
With the rise of social media, everyone with a smartphone is now a “content creator.” Most of us have become entertainers as we “direct” the photos of our food (north light is always best!). In Korea, they have “mukbang”, an “art form” where people pay to watch others eat. This has been ridiculed by many… but look at us now, as we all zoom happy hours and dinners with each other.
Going out to eat is a performance art where you as the customer are the audience, but also part of the experience. That is why it sort of makes sense that many actors work in the restaurant industry (a working actor = can be someone who works in a restaurant but also works as an actor) because a live “show” every night is superb practice! Everything in a restaurant from the lighting (lots of dishes now involve fire and smoke), decor, and seating is evaluated just as one would in a theater. In a theater, there is that expression, “smoke and mirrors” and that is also true of most restaurants. But, at a restaurant, on top of smoke and mirrors, there is smell and taste involved along with the other senses (plus that “something” like the umami of the whole event), are engaged as part of the experience.
In a natural segue, some of the food influencers, like David Chang, have their own shows. The Danish influencer, Claus Meyer, did a lecture/show at a theater. With the advent of videos and “stories” on Instagram and Facebook, the food industry has become an entertainment producer online, not just in brick and mortar. Both these chefs/influencers are active daily on Instagram. That’s more interaction than you could ever get back when you had to wait a year for a reservation at one of their fine dining establishments. One of my friends commented that due to COVID, she is able to get food delivered to her house from restaurants where she could not even get a reservation!
In the time of COVID, and all the zoom and whatsapp virtual gatherings, the paradigm has shifted. Perhaps, we have all become, oddly much more connected, but more than that, how we see each other has changed. We are seeing more people in their pajamas and without makeup or dyed hair. This, like things, has good sides and bad sides. Maybe we don’t want so much contact?
I’d also posit that we’ve become more egalitarian as well… well, if you have mastery of social media…
During this time of quarantine, many of us are “artist in residence” or “banished from the realm” — all depending on how you want to phrase it. I have been in splendid isolation. Free to travel the worldwide web. Armchair traveling is actually one of my favorite forms of travel because it’s comfortable, cheap, not sweaty, and I don’t have to get on a plane. Deep in the outer galaxy of this blog, is my travel page where I list many of my favorite travel writers and quotes. I revisited my travel page and actually re-bought a paperback book of one of my favorite travelogues.
“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” –- Benjamin Disraeli
Much of the Internet, podcasts, YouTube videos, Instagram, Facebook, IGTV, etc. reminds me of that book, The Diary of a Nobody. Most of us are nobodies. Equal among other nobodies. Driveler among drivelers. So why not add my voice to the cacophony? On my media page (and here on Google Podcasts), there are links to the other platforms from where I’m catching the virtual cyber train. In preparation, I’ve been exploring, adventuring, and I found there are so many new places to visit, people to talk to, and things to eat. After my residence as “artiste in residence” is done (or “digital content creator” as is the new name on the street), I’ll be back out there.
On Facebook, there is a group called, “View from my window” and I’ve enjoyed it. Very positive people and it makes one realize how beautiful, and similar, this world is.
On YouTube, I discovered that I could pay for programs and get really high definition videos (much higher definition than when I watched the original shows in the 1990s).
On Stitcher, I’ve been listening to The Fantastic History of Food (who can resist a title called, “Piracy, Witches and Hot Chocolate.“?) Plus, since I’ve learned so much about cacao from Amanda at El Cacaotal, I see/hear about cacao and want to learn more. Also, on Stitcher, it’s comforting to hear Christopher Kimball (from when I watched lots of PBS) on Milk Street.
On Podbean, I listened to surprisingly entertaining banter about hunting and nudists on The MeatEater Podcast, Ep. 220.
As I’ve explored podcasts, I realized that this is basically radio, that old fashioned technology that like many technologies, can change the world, or bring comfort (like FDR’s Fireside Chats — check out the film of him giving a chat). I would call podcasts, “audio-blogging” and you are welcome to call it that too.
And as the quote above indicates, much of life is stranger than fiction so why not read, see, hear, more of it, without the hassle of airplanes (for now). Happy adventures from splendid isolation!
Face masks are are mandatory in Peru (please see vendors on my list of delivery places from my last blog posting). Peru’s internationally renowned fashion designer, Meche Correa, is finally making masks (long after many small unknown entrepreneurs). Sadly, her design is in fashionista black and not in her normal Peruvian design.
But, others are using native Peruvian designs. I see all over social media that people are celebrating their own cultural designs, like the ones from Ayachucho in the Twitter photo.
It is delightful to see that art is flourishing during the quarantine.
Fashion is fashioning itself as it does. I would add that I predict that gloves will come back in fashion. And handkerchiefs.
The single word, “Gamarra” elicits a volatile reaction when uttered here in Lima.
Gamarra is an area of Lima located in the district of La Victoria, just a few miles from Miraflores and other posh neighborhoods of Lima. Gamarra is known as the textile or fabric district of Lima. Essentially it’s a giant open air pedestrian-friendly fabric and clothing shopping area. The main areas are several streets that are closed off by metal fencing and gates creating a pedestrian zone (I predict that in ten years, this area will be gentrified and quite chic). Gamarra is named after Jiron Gamarra (named after a Peruvian president) and La Victoria was incorporated as a district in 1920. There is a metro stop in Gamarra, plus, a witch’s market (famous for frog smoothies and other talismans). Read more on Gamarra here if you wish.
When reading about Gamarra, the warnings are to watch your wallet. It is true that like any crowded place in Peru, you need to watch for pickpockets. Never put anything in a backpack that you can’t afford to lose. All this said, the young mayor of La Victoria, George Forsyth, of a renowned family, cleaned up Gamarra in 2019. He has taken some heat (even threats) for what he did. Some might say that he made Gamarra not as good a deal as it once was, but it’s still good for your wallet (if you can keep anything in it). Speaking of deals, fabric can be bought for as low as three soles per meter (maybe less?). Most fabric is 1.60 meters wide. That’s a lot of fabric. You can find any type of fabric but each type has an area so I’m not sure if they sell silk (having never been to the silk area). The names of the fabric are perhaps different from what you might call them (I like “chalise” — a cotton blend — for shirts), but go ahead and touch the fabric. There are many forms of fleece which is fun as it needs no edging. During the summer, the mind turns to linen (mine does), and that can be found in Gamarra as well (in Dhaka, linen and spandex were hard to find by the meter — even though Bangladesh is famous for sewing much of the world’s clothes).
There are shopping centers within Gamarra’s pedestrian streets as well stores that sell ready-to-wear clothes, toys, bags, and there are places that will custom print your bags or clothes. The area also sells plus-size clothing (as Peruvians are generally shorter and smaller than most gringos) and some of the signage will even say “ropa para gorditas” (I don’t know where the “gorditos” shop). Some of these stores sell up to XXXL size clothes, which is about a 20-22 in U.S. sizes plus sizes, but the selection is limited so it’s better to get your own clothes made.
Gamarra is also a place where one can buy thread, tailor’s equipment, sewing machines, and yarn. It’s also possible to buy alpaca and llama yarn in Gamarra but again, I have never made it to that area.
Gamarra also has restaurants and many restrooms, as well as lots of security. Like any shopping area in Peru, there are also street stalls. Gamarra was famous for the street stalls until the mayor pushed them out. The street stalls are now a few blocks outside the gated area. The busiest day in Gamarra is Saturday and most shops open around 10 a.m.
The best fabric prices are to be had in Gamarra but the prices will vary depending on how foreign you appear. What can cost 12 soles ($3.75) per meter for one gringo, can cost six soles per meter for another, less gringo-looking, foreigner. Learning to haggle helps get the price down but also shopping in the less crowded areas as well.
This year I see the rise of artisanal bread. Last year, I predicted the popularity of poke. I predict next year is the bubbling of kombucha and homebrews: from kombucha, beer, wine, and other concoctions.
In one year, the trend went from zero-carbohydrate to full-on gluten party. For many years, San Francisco has been famous for its sourdough bread. But sourdough or “masa madre” (mother yeast dough) is one of the most natural ancient forms of raising agent. It occurs naturally if you leave some flour out in the free air. The sourdough made in Lima is less sour than the bread in San Francisco.
There are several artisanal bakers in Lima who give lessons on making bread and sourdough starter. They even give classes in English. Amelia of Buda Bakes (uses sourdough for pizza bases, pretzels, and babka to name a few) and Francisco of Masas Salvaje (they have nine varieties including Andean grains, kiwichi — don’t know what it is either!, parmesan, chocolate, and turmeric) are two that I can think of off hand. The extremely stretchy artisanal bread at El Pan de la Chola is one of the reasons that El Pan de la Chola continues to maintain its place at the top of my list of best restaurants in Lima.
Lima’s bread artisans make good use of Instagram and Facebook to share visuals of their bread as smello-vision and toucho-vision has not been invented yet. One of the delights of bread is that warm bready aroma and squidgy stretchy texture.
Five years ago, I visited Lima for a weekend. My friend and her family, are my experts on Peruvian food and culture. She turned the weekend into a Peruvian food tour. Now that I have lived in Lima for a few years, here are my recommendations for a three-day food tour of Lima. Of course, if you plan your travel here around reservations at Central or Maido, then do that or go to one of the other places on my list of 100 places to try. This list is focused on showing your visitors some of the variety and best of “nueva andina” cuisine.
El Cacaotal, Jr. Colina 128A, Barranco: Closed on Sundays. Grab a coffee or hot chocolate at this premiere chocolate “library” of Peruvian fine chocolates.
The city of Trujillo, an easy hour flight north of Lima, is a great weekend destination. Trujillo is called the city of eternal spring. In the depth of Lima winter, I went looking for some spring. Flying up on a Friday evening, the pickup from the airport was easily done by the hotel located on the central square. The airport is located 20 minutes from the city and you even pass one of the tourist sites on the way in — Chan Chan — before passing a modern mall and convention center.
The archaeological site of the Huaca of the Moon and the Sun is a mere 20 minutes outside of the city so easily visited. The new site called “El Brujo”, is only 63 kilometers to the north but due to the road conditions, it takes 80 minutes. I’d recommend going to these two sites in one day, with lunch in the coastal town of Huanchaco, eat at Big Ben.
Then go for a walk along the Huanchaco malecon (boardwalk – sidewalk) and take your selfies with the reed boats, “caballitos de totora” — reed horsies, so called because the fishermen ride astride the boats, instead of sitting in them. Back in Trujillo, enjoy, on Saturday evenings, the free marinera (a type of dance) performances in the main square, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Join in! Then walk down to one of the famous restaurants for dinner. The photo of the Waldorf salad is from the famous restaurant with the balcony, El Celler de Cler.
On Sunday mornings, the main square is blocked off and the town dignitaries walk about in a procession. This is a good time to get photos of the square. Later, go to Chan Chan.
When you buy pottery reproduction souvenirs, make sure that the item is stamped as a reproduction so that you aren’t accused of buying cultural patrimony. The reproductions are some of the highest quality I’ve seen, as souvenirs go.
Then back to Huanchaco for lunch. The whole malecon is shoulder to shoulder with restaurants. Try the special “aji de gallina” of this area, made with crab. Or stick to ceviche which will be some of the best you’ve had.
Then, catch your flight back to Lima.