How to “Get” the Peruvians And Get What You Want From Them

Or the Cultural Intelligence Guide to Peruvians, or cross-cultural communication (to use the 1990s term for it). All this may be different now that COVID has erased some norms of meeting people in the same physical space. But, post-pandemic, I’m sure that these norms will return. (Note: First, the whiter, more male, and better looking that you are… the easier everything will be for you.) Now, on to the game!

If you really want to maneuver Peruvian society, and Peruvians themselves, the thing to know is… RESPECT. Not like how Aretha sang it, which was respect my human rights and me as a person. But, more like respect the societal rules, or the rules of deference. Peruvians know their place in their society and which class they belong to. They expect you to be respectful enough to treat them accordingly, and to behave in a way that reflects that you know the rules of Peruvian society. Capische?

Class structure. Understand how the Peruvians understand each other’s position in society. The class structure in Peru is by letter: A, B, C… (most people will say that they are B class as in B- but in reality they may be C++ class). As a foreigner, this will not really affect you but it’s useful to know how they deal with each other. When Peruvians who do not know each other meet, they ask three questions to help them figure where they belong in society.

1. They will ask you your full name to see if you have any connections. Peruvians have two last names from their father and mother, and if those names are distinctive, then they know WHO you are (imagine if you will that your name was Isabel Carmen Aliaga Varela — the Aliaga part could mean that you belong to the one of the original founding families of Peru. The Varela part could mean that you belong to one of the old money families of Lima).

2. Where did you go to high school. Most Peruvians do not go to university including the upper classes (even as recently as 20 years ago, upper class women were not encouraged to go to university — as they would not need a degree for a good marriage). If you went to one of the private schools like San Silvestre, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (the nouveau riche school), Italian School, Newton, and so on, then they can easily place you in society. Maybe they went to the same school. Then they have an instant connection with you. If you went to university abroad, in the U.S., England, or Spain, then you could be moving up in society. (Note on moving up in society: Education and overseas living experience are ways to move up in Peruvian society. Some families will send their children to public school 90 minutes away so that they have a better chance of moving up through the system. For example, a typical family of hairdressers and welders living in San Juan de Miraflores, a “conos” (projects or in some places shanty towns — squatting is a viable way to become a homeowner in these areas) housing neighborhood, will send their child to school in Miraflores, which is actually “San Miguel de Miraflores” but no one ever says that. By sending their child to public school in Miraflores, they are giving them an up and in into moving from C class to B class. Then the child studies abroad for university. When that person returns to Peru, they are now B class. To move from B to A class is a lot harder. A class tends to be families of old money and power. Even fame does not really help you move into A class).

3. Where did/do you live in Lima. As mentioned in the point above about school, your geography will determine your place in society. Peruvians who meet outside of Peru will ask where they lived in Lima. If the answer is San Isidro, Miraflores (not San Juan de Miraflores. Some will say this even if they actually grew up in the infamous one), La Estancia, then the other person knows that they are at least B class. Hence, everyone says Miraflores. If the person says San Borja or Barranco, it could be harder to tell. Even if the person lives in Lince, they may say San Isidro because it sounds better (people will even get dropped off in San Isidro and then walk the two blocks to Lince to make it look like they live in San Isidro… yes, it’s that important in Lima society).

Race. The color of your skin and your bone structure will also tell the other Peruvians where you are in society. Like in many other parts of the world, the women straighten their hair in Peru so that they will have less curly hair, but it can’t be too straight because then it’s too indigenous. But, they rely less on this than the aforementioned three questions. White, blue-eyed, and naturally blonde is upper class or foreign.

Another thing to understand about Peruvian society is…

Sycophancy – “pegajosa” or “sticky” is the closest word that I was given when I asked about brown nosing. But, since it’s not a bad thing -– it is simply the MO, modus operandi — way of conducting business -– it doesn’t have the same connotations that it has in English when accusing someone of being a a brown-noser. Peruvians don’t really talk about brown-nosing. It’s so normal for them that they don’t need to talk about it. There’s really no word for brown-nosing in Peruvian Spanish (sort of like how there is no word for privacy in Italian). It’s just how things are done. If you need something, it’s all — all — about who you know. It’s relational.

Peru is an extroverted culture with a preoccupation with “respect,” propriety, and formality — with obvious external audible and visible forms expected. The Peruvians are talkative people. They will ask you about your family, whether you are married, your age, and so on. Nothing is told in confidence. They feel free to share this information and to talk about you. Similar to brown-nosing, they may not really see this as a bad thing. They might just think they are being respectful to you by showing an interest in you. (Not that everything is benevolent. Peruvians seem to enjoy seeing slapstick or the failure of others.) Even if you don’t tell anyone anything about yourself, they might gossip about you anyway, even to you! Understanding that Peruvians gossip makes it easier for you to realize that this is part of the game of life in Peru.

Now, how to get what you want… here’s the secret! Make them feel that you are respecting them! Well, of course, you do, dahlin’. Make them feel like they are doing you a favor, even if they should just do their job. Always, always, make them feel like they have the upper hand. Then, make sure to thank them effusively, as in “muchisimas gracias” or “you saved my life” or some such hyperbole. These little thank yous will help you maintain the relationship for the next time you need something. It really is that simple. Be sort of sickly sweet. For men, just lower your voice a bit. Actually, men being men in a chauvinistic society, don’t need to kiss-up quite so much… depends on the class of the two actors.

Yes, really. This is the secret.

Now that you are in the know, here are some easy things you can do to make your way in Peruvian society easier. And to get what you want from Peruvians.

Speak Spanish. It’s respectful. Actually, the Peruvians speak “Castellano” or Castilian. It was the language of 12th century kingdom of Castile and Leon in Spain. The people of modern day central Spain speak this language to this day. Many South American countries call this form of Spanish Castilian. Of course, in Peru, there are colloquialisms. If you want to fit in, always use the term, “palta” for avocado. When giving directions, “siga defrente” or “sigue defrente” for “go straight” — I usually add a frantic chopping motion with my arm. If you mention “derecho” at all — at all,  the driver will start turning right. So keep “derecha” for your discussions of human rights. To sound friendly and intimate, say “porfa” for “por favor.” Also, Peruvians almost never use the word, “hola” when greeting people. But, they might say, “ciao” when departing. But it’s spelled, “chaw” if you are going to write it, but it’s better to use an emoji in Whatsapp.

Good day greetings — kissing on the cheek. Peruvians do one air kiss on each side, usually start on the right. If it’s a formal situation and the greeting involves a male, you can shake hands. But the cheek air kisses are okay too, while grabbing each other’s shoulders in a manly way. Most importantly, greet everyone! Seriously. Everyone. In stores, elevator, entering a conference, checking in, everyone. Every day at work, go around and greet all your colleagues, even if you saw them that long lost yesterday. At parties or events, you must personally greet everyone and say goodbye to everyone, individually. Peruvians are a people who want you to acknowledge them, each and every one, and that includes when entering a room. Even with your family. The way to deal with this is to show up on time for parties. So if the party is at 8:30 p.m., show up at 9 p.m. Then everyone who comes in after you, will have to come say hello to you. If you show up late, you have have to walk around and greet everyone. Then, stay till almost last. This way you won’t have to go around and say goodbye to everyone. Saying goodbye is an equal drama and it can take a long time. If you want to make a quick getaway, hug and kiss the hosts before giving the room a general wave and “Sorry, we have an early morning. We don’t want to cause a stir.” Then exit quickly. There will still be gossip, but at least you got away. The word for gossip is “chisme.” Women will sometimes start with “chisme, chisme, chisme…” when they want to tell you gossip.

Critically, start every interaction with a greeting. In shops, in email, on Whatsapp, on the phone — always start with a greeting. Always. On a somewhat related note, don’t barge straight into whatever you need or want. Even in a Whatsapp chat. Well, maybe if you are on fire, but I still think a Peruvian would start the call with, “Good evening, hope you are well. Could you be so kind as to help me? I’m on fire.” So, as I said, always start with a greeting. If not, you will look like a disrespectful boor.

Calling and Whatsapp. Lots of it. Use it. Use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Whatsapp to communicate. Do it a lot. Peruvians like to feel the attention of those communiques pinging and vibrating on their phones. Preferably call. Peruvians want to feel the human interaction in every interaction. Nothing can be done quickly in Peru. There is no running in to buy a banana or a coffee. NO, no, no, NO. Peruvians would feel that they were denying you a respectful interaction if they did it too fast. They are not Scandinavians, who are famous for being efficient, if cold. For example, getting Internet set up in one’s home takes many phone calls and hours, sometimes days…

Dress and grooming. This is easy. Dress like Hans Solo. In winter. Google it. Or whatever the fashion dictates. A few years ago, every woman was showing up in white rabbit vests with gold accessories. In the summer, you can wear flip flops but really only when at the beach. Shorts are okay for men during the summer but best left for the beach town. Women are dressy. (A note: when you invite a Peruvian to an event, be it a food fair or theater outing, they will want to know the dress code. Peruvians are formal in terms of dress. Only in the last ten years have Peruvians allowed themselves to be seen outside a gym wearing sneakers. Yup.) Invitations will always state the dress code and for everything else, dress up rather than down. Wear jewelry. Critically, have your hair groomed and coiffed. Salons are open early (7 a.m. is very early to the nocturnal Peruvians) so that women can get their hair “blown” for the day. Women do not wash their hair every day (don’t be grossed out — they are clean) and they often go to the salon a few times a week to get it “done” for the next few days. Most women wear their hair long if they are younger and even if they are older. But, at some point, women of a certain age (no, older than that) will go for the short winged look in a shade of sandy chestnut color. I once sat at a salon and watch in amazement as the in house “blow-out queen” blew out woman after woman who came in looking like drowned rats… and then left looked like coiffed empresses ready to be driven in their Bentleys. Most importantly, women are coiffed when they go out. They will even carry a brush in their purses so that they can do a quick brush out if needed. Men generally have short hair but it’s okay to have a ponytail. I see few comb-overs in Lima. When bald, men in Lima seem to accept the baldness. Men can wear earrings as well (Back in the 1980s, men wearing earrings was a controversy — look how far we’ve come) but so far, most do not wear makeup (it’s a thing, it is — call it “tinted moisturizer” or “bronzer.” But, I digress.) Also, oddly, I’ve noticed some men who manage to make the white sock with birkenstock look okay. Wait, what am I saying?! Only Germans can pull off this look, and even then, not really. Peruvian men wear leather dress shoes or sneakers (as do lots of women). Again, word about sneakers. Until 2010 or so, no one wore sneakers outside of a gym. Now, everyone wears them.

Time. Most Peruvians will be late for parties or gatherings, even meetings. I find this a conundrum because being late is disrespectful. It wastes everyone’s time. The way to get around this is to be late yourself… no. One way to get around this is to host things at your own place. Or share a taxi to wherever you are going. And, have your phone loaded with other things to do… like Whatsapping all those folks you are brown-nosing, um, I mean, “chatting” with. If you are wondering how late to be for a restaurant meal, around 15-45 minutes is quite normal. For a private party, 30 minutes to an hour is normal. For business meetings, 10-15 minutes late is not late. Being late is all about “making an entrance” and the bigger a blowhard you think you are (but, I don’t think you’re reading my blog…), the more of an entrance you want to make. Drama!

Back to the idea of “formality” — yes the Peruvians are a formal people as I explained earlier. But when they mention “informal” — they are not talking about “casual” as in shorts and khaki. When Peruvians use the term, “informal,” they are talking about blackmarket or “under the table” prices or economy. But, if you ask a Peruvian, they will never use those words. It’s always the “informal” market. Peru leads in counterfeit (60 percent of things/ideas are “fake” or counterfeit in Peru). The informal attitude to copyright is part of the dichotomy that is only equaled by their sense of time. Unless one thinks of it as a form of flattery. About 70 percent of Peruvians work in the “informal” economy — from domestic staff to illegal commerce.

Finally, now that you know how to “get” the Peruvians and how to get what you want from them, remember this — don’t talk about this to them. Just as they don’t talk about the class system (yes, they have one), Peruvians, for all their talkativeness, don’t talk about their modus operandi. It’s not proper. Not polite. Shows a lack of respect.

Anyway, have I got a bit of juicy gossip for you… chisme, chisme, chisme…

M’s Adventures Useful Contact Info for Lima

Contact info for drivers, dentists, estheticians, mani-pedi, waiters, classes, chocolate, vets, furniture-makers, and other services you might be looking for while living in Lima. Some of these are services I have personally enjoyed and others are highly recommended. Most like Whatsapp as a form of communication. If they do not speak English and you don’t speak Spanish, use Google translate. (A note on Peruvian names: Peruvians spell their names with a creativity that has been written about in the national newspapers. So John can be Jhon, Jon, Yon, Yhon, and beyond.) To learn about some of these entrepreneurs, watch my video about them on the video page of this website or on YouTube.
CATERING/Waitstaff
Private chef and sommelier: Jasmine (speaks English): 944 534 074
Catering: Try Miski: 965 217 210
Waiters: Jhon Vasquez owns JJ Waiters (speak English): 993 163 866
Javier is a professional waiter. His daughter is also a waiter and she speaks English: 999 185 037 (about 100 soles for an event)
CLASSES (food and drink)
Chocolate and coffee classes at El Cacaotal with Amanda and Felipe. They speak English: 937 595 812, 939 447 367
Cooking classes: Sky Kitchen: 943 701 874
Buda Bakes: Amelia speaks English: 921 924 236
Masas Salvaje for sourdough breads, beer, and classes: Francisco speaks English: 933 790 881
Wine tastings: Jasmine (speaks English): 944 534 074
Wine tasting classes and certification in enology, and sensory analysis classes, try taking class with Jorge (speaks English) the Peruvian Sommelier School: eps@sommeliersperu.edu.pe 
WineBox, owned by Gonzalo (speaks English) also does monthly subscriptions of wine delivery to your house.
DRIVERS
Most taxi drivers can be hired per hour or for the day (30 soles per hour is the normal rate).
Yuberlyn: 923 484 172
Orlando (speaks English): 936 034 508
Michael (speaks English): 979 349 077
GUIDES
Brenda Ortiz (speaks English): graffiti tours and other tours of Barranco: 962 373 975
Miller (speaks English) has a fleet of vehicles and guides: 977 654 348
Dyan: While not a professional guide, she can take you for a hike, or fishing, or babysit your guests around town (speaks English): 937 210 084
PERSONAL HYGIENE SERVICES
Again, there are many places to get all these things done. But these are some that I know of.
Dentistry: Dr. Angeles speaks English: 998 237 144
50 soles for a checkup and cleaning with Dr. Miriam: 991-590-656.
Hair: Many places, but try Mariela who makes house calls: 942-961-464.
Thomas Bennett is an American hair stylist, speaks English: 970-740-639.
Mani-pedi: Monica is the best: 950-070-925. She makes house calls. About 60 soles for a mani-pedi.
Massage: Whatsapp Dora and she will send someone for massages and facials: 999-353-381
Facials: Brian Douglas speaks English: 987-727-133
PETS
Vets: For international transportation, I’ve heard good things about Petwings.
For house calls, Dr. Cols speaks English and can get your pet’s papers in order as well: 959-189-949.
SHOPPING
Like in many places, if you like to customize, personalize, design, then you can do that here, at reasonable prices. Let the inner designer out!
Ceramics: want those plates from Central? Jallpa Niña is the most famous store that sells ceramics but you can also find it at Dedalo and other locations. Almost all of these vendors only speak Spanish which is a good mix with Google translate.
Fashion (clothes/shoes/jewelry/handbags/leather): there are so many places that can make you hand made clothes, shoes, jewelry, handbags, and leather products. Here are some:
— seamstress: there are many shops, or try Miriam: 957-383-230
— jewelry: many places on Petit Thouars avenue. Try Petit Thouars Avenue 5321, interior shop 103. 100 soles for custom made earrings and 200 soles for a custom made necklace.
— handbags, shoes, furniture, and leather repair. Try Luis: 981-025-192
— shoes: Kaleydo shoes has ready to wear but you can also design your own. Carla also speaks some English: 988-027-111
Furniture: can be bought ready made at places like Don Bosco. They can also make customized furniture. Some of highly recommended furniture makers are Casa Rustico (Juan Carlos at 977-188-057), and Tharina Kaspi. Customized furniture is not cheap but you can get what you like and it will be cheaper than in many other countries (U.S., Germany, Australia). You can also get your furniture repaired and refurbished here. I even had a “vintage” plastic poof re-sewn, re-stuffed, and re-polished, by a shoe repairman. He also re-upholstered a footstool and added a leather seat.
Frames: get your photos, awards, diplomas, etc. framed here. There are many, many, shops that frame. A diploma sized goldish frame is about 50 soles ($17).
Metal: it seems like every street has a metal working shop. Every building has a handmade door so, you could get one too. Or get a headboard or staircase made. The only limits are your Spanish skills and patience.
Fabric and yarn: alpaca, llama, and vicuna products are the main shopping item in Peru, but you can find fabric and yarn by the yard in Gamarra, La Victoria. This district is infamous but after the mayor cleaned it up, it is on its way to gentrification. The fabric can still be bought for great prices. A yard/meter of fleece for 6 soles (under $2).
Souvenirs: at Dedalo, Las Pallas, and at the Inka Market/Indian Market/Inka Plaza etc. on Petit Thouars. These stores also sell high end items and ceramics.
Other things: black salt, mangosteen, anyone? I wrote about it somewhere…

Criolla Food in Peru

IMG_4624
Papa rellana ready for frying, above bags of choclo. 

Peru is also a “melting pot” and the Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Italian immigrations added to this pot. But what did the Peruvians eat before?

The original inhabitants of Peru ate the foods that today are called “criolla” or creole. I think of “queso y choclo” — cheese and corn — when I think of local food. The “queso fresco” or fresh cheese is just that, non-aged cheese so think feta but not salty or sour (which feta should not be, but that’s a whole different discussion.) Some creole dishes are tacu tacu (refried hash), beans, habas (roasted fava bean snack), rice with duck, papa rellena (large stuffed mashed potato croquette), tamales, soups (sopa criolla is a noodle soup with cubed beef and milk), butiffara (a pork sandwich), and anything with an egg on it. Every single restaurant will know how to make a delicious home made soup called “sopa dieta” which is what would be called “Jewish noodle soup” in other places. It’s a soup that can cure all.

IMG_3138

A word about “dare” or “scary” foods. Guinea pig or “cuy” in Peruvian is convenient and easy to raise. A Peruvian told me that traditionally you would only be served a portion — not the whole thing with head frozen in its death scream. Cuy, pronounced “koo-wee” is more common in the mountains. Yes, one can also eat alpaca, llama, vicuna, and other camelids. And, the one that people always seem to “dare” tourists to eat — the suri worm or maggot. Maggots are fatty sources of protein (According to experts, bugs could be the protein of the future). Many cultures eat bugs — crickets, grasshoppers, ants, and so on. But, you don’t have to eat it. Many modern restaurants will serve cuy or llama in a way that you might find more palatable. At Astrid and Gaston’s, the cuy is served as a mini Peking Duck bite. My “word” about scary or dare foods is that you don’t have to eat them. Many Peruvians don’t. There is so much available that is much more delicious.

The weirdest thing I ate in Peru (no, I didn’t eat the maggot) was a vegan “jerky” stick. So odd. I don’t know what was in it, but it wasn’t criolla!

IMG_0160

 

 

 

 

Independent Storytelling

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…

M’s Adventures Love Letter to Peru Movie Trailer

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.

 

Traveling on the Worldwide Web

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.

One of my newest gadgets is a tripod/selfie stick with light.

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 Instagram, I’ve delighted in the mother-daughter E. and S. Minchilli (yes, that’s their last name!) cook, talk, answer questions, and adore Rome, and everything Italian.

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!

Gamarra

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.

Gamarra is also famous for the “informal” market. The use of the word “informal” is actually code for black market and knockoffs. I only shop for fabric.

 

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.

Juniors, Circas, and ‘Av Nots.

The addresses in Lima are kind of fun (well, one has to have some fun while in traffic!). Just take a moment and enjoy the name of the street in the photo. For a non-native Castilliano (Peruvian Spanish is “castillion”) speaker, this is a challenge… sip-ee-own-yown-a?

Jiron (jr.) is a small street. Sort of like a junior street.

Calle (ca.) is a street.

Callejon is an alley.

Avenida (av.) is an avenue and normally a long street.

Pasaje: is a cul-de-sac.

Paseo: is a street for a walk like a boardwalk. Streets like Arequipa that are divided with a sidewalk and trees in the middle are meant for these “walks”.

Prolongacion (prol.) is a an extension of a street.

Cuadra (or cdra) is a block.

Ovalo is a traffic circle/roundabout.

Sin numero (s/n) means that the house has no number.

Solar: is an alleyway in a fancy neighborhood.

Alta means that it’s at the top of the street or block.

Manzana means an apple but in this context it means a block. The term most likely originates from the feudal system (and not as I hoped that it was the amount of space that an apple tree spreads its roots). The use of “manzana” and “lote” or lot is predominant in some of the “conos” or northern, southern, and eastern districts of Lima. These are mainly lower socio-economic areas.

And related to this, an apartment is a “departamento” or “depa” and the first floor is the ground floor here.

Biodiversity Wonderland, But the Dog…

But the dog… the special dog of Peru is the Peruvian Hairless Dog or Peruvian Inca Orchid Dog Breed. I do not have a photo (which is odd given how many photos I take — but when I googled “dog” and “animal” in my photos, I got some interesting results — corn — but no hairless dog. The one in the jeans and striped top is a French one, I think) so I include a link here. There are several types of Peruvian dog but the most noticeable is the hairless one.

I first saw one and in an “adding injury to insult” sort of way, this particular hairless dog not only had a skin disease,  but also has a “job” where s/he interacts with lots of people all day long. Actually, maybe the skin condition helps keep people from petting him/her?

The Peruvian Hairless Dog looks a lot like Anubis, of ancient Egypt.

In my part of Lima, I don’t see that many street dogs, but I see many other pooches! There are several dog parks and even a dog fair (I don’t think they sell dogs… adopt! Just accoutrements.) on the malecon.

Some gelaterias even sell gelato specially made for dogs. As I wrote in November, I am predicting that the new trend in restaurants will be dog menus (no, not menus made of dog).

Lima doesn’t seem quite as pooch crazy as Bogota but perhaps it will become so.

Like in Bogota, the vets will make house calls. Dr. Cols makes calls and he speaks English (and canine — oh, and feline and whatever).

Really, this blog posting was just to show some photos of dogs.

NOTE: I do not receive any monetary remuneration for any of the businesses (like the dog cookie business — get ya fresh wholesome all natural 100 percent ancestral grain puppy treats NOW!) whom I “advertise” (in the verb sense) on my blog.

The term for pet is “mascota” in Spanish and aren’t they just?

 

Tourist Trap Lima – Be Part of the Entertainment, Not!

“Eat seafood at the fisherman’s harbor.” That sounds authentic, cheap, and quaint, no? I allowed myself and a friend to get taken there.

I had driven past this beach and harbor many times. The area is almost always a traffic choke point as the cars going to the Regattas club inch past the millions going to the public beach and Chorillos harbor.  This time, we stopped.

Like in Thailand and Mancora, and other tourist traps, the restaurant ‘sharks’ were corralling anyone who came within the harbor area to eat at their restaurant. Laminated menus with English writing and tatty photos glittering like confetti.

We sat down on plastic chairs and a table covered in a sticky plastic plaid table cover. There were a few other foreigners, crispy pink from the sun, sitting around us as it was early (1 p.m.) but otherwise fairly empty. As we waited for our food, the ‘entertainment’ started. A troupe dressed in jungle costumes and a green yoda-like creature with a painted green body stocking… (note: this was a representation of a real mythical creature from the Amazon — a chuyachaqui) then a sad patriotic clown who set fire to his thick hair… then a guy dressed in a brown monkey mask and brown body fur… At the same time, trinket salesmen and women flogged their goods. At one point a man with the saddest face serenaded us in a gruel-thin reedy voice. At this point, I realized that WE were part of the entertainment. Along with the other customers. It was a hot day but the two ladies next to us were dressed in puff down coats and wool hats. By way of official entertainment, a young Venezuelan guy sang love ballads making the waitresses swoon. The vendors of everything were joined by beggars.

The only thing not offered (to us) was drugs or prostitutes.

My observations were interrupted when the waitress brought the nutcrackers.

For the crabs. My seafood rice was mounted by a half crab with a hard red claw. My fried seafood was topped by the other half (I think, although probably not because only the right claw is big, right?). My friend managed to crack hers sending a grenade of crab shell ricocheting across the table. I tried to crack the other claw. No way was this crab fresh. The claw had petrified.

I never felt in any danger at the harbor even when I went to the toilet. The staff in the toilet even wanted to help flush the toilet for me but I’m also used to the ‘water jug gravitational’ method of flushing. Odd thing was that the sink had running water even though the toilet did not.

Later, when I relayed this adventure to my upper class Peruvian friend, the tightness around her eyes told me that we should never have gone to such a place, but she realized that we gringos will do silly things. She would prefer to spare us this touristy experience.

The food was not that good and for three people it cost 132 soles. Not cheap. Not quaint. But I got a blog article out of it.

The friend who went through this with me said, “Is this for your blog? Or are you just trying to make sure that I see the full spectrum of restaurants in Lima?” Two days later, we ate at Kjolle, one mile but three or four worlds away.

Once Upon A Danish Yule

A Danish Christmas (or yule) is celebrated on December 24 in the evening (like the Peruvians). While there are many different family traditions, the evening will be something like as this…

It will be dark as the sun may have set around four in the afternoon. There may be a light layer of slush or sleet on the trees, glinting in the streetlamps. If you are lucky, there will be snow providing a soft sparkle to the night. As you make your way to the family celebration, you will walk the decorated streets, festooned with garlands of lights, candles flickering on window sills, and the smell of onions frying.

When you get to your destination, all dressed in red or green, you will be hugged and kissed by your hosts. Warmth will greet you as you enter the home. The windows and doors may be decorated with paper cut outs of Christmas elves, some of these may be less Disney and more Dickens in style and may, every year, be carefully preserved in tissue paper, to once again every year, get taped to the walls to tell their stories of tricks or goose chasing. The elves can be in sets of activities, some doing winter sports, or playing in a band, or cooking. Some are hand-made and others are bought every year and carefully cut out. The tree will be decorated with heirloom decorations (perhaps a small decorated bottle cap star that grandma made when she was but a wee thing) and tinsel. Some people even keep up the old tradition of live candles on the tree. img_1693

(The Danes, most of whom are Lutheran, may go to a Christmas church service. This, for some, is the only time of the year that they will go to church. Otherwise, the churches are used mostly for baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals.) Christmas music will be playing everywhere and even the non-religious will still get into the Christmas spirit.

Perhaps you will be offered mulled wine, adding a smell of warm wine, spices, and raisins to the air. The dinner will include roast duck or pork roast with crackling (goose in old times, and in modern times, turkey). The meal includes small caramelized potatoes, chestnut colored and slightly sweet. There will be brown gravy, boiled potatoes, warm red cabbage, stuffing made of cooked apples and prunes, and there will be lots of everything. For Christmas dessert, the Danes eat rice pudding. It’s a rice, cream, and chopped almond dessert served with cooked cherry sauce (or strawberry — something to evoke the red and white colors of Denmark). The special thing about dessert is that the rice pudding is actually a game — one of the almonds is left intact and whoever finds it without chewing it, wins the “almond gift.” Many grandparents make special bowls for the grandchildren (usually for those under 15) who will then miraculously find an almond in their portion! In the old days, the prize would be a pig made out of marzipan, and indeed, it is still possible to buy or make your own marzipan pig to enjoy at Christmastime.

Another fun thing about the Danes is that they have a “practice” Christmas dinner on November 10, which is Saint Martin’s Eve, when one would eat a roast goose and thus practice making a Christmas meal. Really, it’s often just another reason to get together with friends and family and enjoy some “hygge” or coziness. In the time up to Christmas there will be many parties, including the Christmas lunch but I’ll blog about that later. Sometimes one is invited, or hosts, a Christmas decoration/craft party during which Christmas tree decorations are made, paper elves are cut, table centerpiece tableaux are made, and sometimes candles, cookies, and candy are cooked. Often mulled wine is served at these parties as well.)

After dinner which will include a few toasts (the Danes have a special ritualistic way that they toast including always make eye contact with everyone around the table when they toast. The clinking of glasses is less important). After dinner, there will be a break. Sometimes the break is to walk the dogs, air the room, or do some clearing up of the dishes. Then there will be coffee and brandy served, and people will move into position around the living room. But, first, there is singing and dancing!

Everyone holds hands and dances around the Christmas tree singing Christmas carols. Often it’s just the first two verses and in many families, the carols are chosen by the youngest person and all the way up to the oldest (everyone knows that grandpa likes a certain song, so out of deference, one does not pick that song!). Dogs are included so sometimes you will be holding a wagging tail… or the bark. Generally, the direction one dances around the Christmas tree changes with every song, and at the end, there is one particular song, “Now it’s Christmas Again” which is sung with such gusto that someone will peel away from the tree and lead everyone in a conga line around the house until ending up back at the sofas, where the coffee, brandy, and cigarettes (in the old days), are waiting.

Then it’s gift time! But, there is no mad ransacking of the gifts in a Danish Christmas. Usually, someone (with able knees — so that they can crawl under the tree) will put on an elf hat and be the designated Santa Claus helper. The person will find a gift for the youngest person, read the gift label (“To Uncle Jens, Merry Christmas, you are wished a wonderful new year, with dearest love, your nephew Michael” or some such thing), and hand the gift to the person. Everyone will watch, cameras poised, for the look of delight when the gift is opened, someone will have the trash bag at the ready, another will have scissors or a pocket knife in hand ready to assist with a troublesome ribbon or dastardly piece of tape. Then, the person will look ever so pleased and say, “we agree to do the thank yous after all the gifts are opened?” And so on. This will go on until everyone is sitting with a neat pile of gifts, perhaps with wrapping bows stuck to their sweaters or hair, and looking happy. As the gifts thin out under the tree, the santa helper will make sure to hold back one gift for each person for the final round. After all the gifts are unwrapped, everyone gets up to say thank you and hug.

The next day, and certainly within a week, thank you cards will have been sent out. (Another thing about Danes: after a gathering, the next time you see someone, it’s important to say, “tak for sidst” or “thank you for the last time.”) Everyone goes to bed waiting to see what’s in their stocking in the morning.

Idealistic, right? That’s how it should be. Tis the season.

Merry Christmas! God Jul (pronounced “go yule”)!

Mancora – The Hawaii of Peru?

If you have never been to Hawaii, then maybe. If you have, then no. I think the main attraction of Mancora is the wind. If you are into kite sailing, then this is the place for you. Or if you are into wind.

We went in search of sun in winter. It took twelve hours to get there from Lima, including airplane trip, hotel stay, and almost three hours by car. Plus the flights were about $250. Collectively, I think for a sun vacation, one could fly to Cartagena for the same travel time.

I chose a mainstream hotel with gorgeous photos on TripAdvisor, and while the food was good, the place lacked many other things that I expect for that price per night (hot water, elevator as restaurant was downstairs, towels, lack of peeling paint, cleanliness, etc.).

It’s probably a better experience if one stays a private villa with butler and cook. Or at K!chic (one can also eat there even if not staying there).

We flew through Tumbes and I think I actually enjoyed that experience more than Mancora. Tumbes just got its first mall.

The downtown part of Mancora is touristy like Thailand. It’s not a cute town that one would wander about soaking up the culture… I think you go to eat seafood fried rice, chicken wings, drink, and admire the crusty tourists.

In Mancora, the seafood is good and black clams are the specialty.