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.
Having now lived in Lima past the honeymoon phase, I thought I’d write about some of the “realities” of life here as a foreigner (as I did about Dhaka and Bogota. An aside: I continue my search for the perfect “chaleco”.). Most of the daily annoyances that I go through are due to my own personal peeves, but, as the song says, I yam what I jam.
Indirect communication: that is the modus operandi here. As a direct person, I sometimes get tired of the indirect route. I like to ask upfront and not have to guess what is being asked. To the locals, being up front is rude. The twain shall never meet.
Formality: The Limenos are formal people. They like things to be formal. It ties in with being “respectful” which I think might be more important to them than being “nice.” They like to dress formally. They like formal. Have I made it clear? If you can add more gold and more formality, the better.
Class: Yes, they have classes here. Yes, there’s racism. This is not unique to Lima. I still find it annoying to watch people treating others differently simply based on where they live, or their accent, or what job they have. (Let me get off my soapbox… aaaaagh…)
Time: There is the standard comment that people are “late” for everything. If the invitation says 8 p.m., then people will show up at 9:30. But, time, in another sense that I find culturally different, is that Peruvians are night owls. Therefore many things are not open until 10 a.m. and some businesses aren’t even open for lunch on Sundays until 2 p.m.! Also, many restaurants close for a few hours in the middle of the day. Sometimes I like to eat dinner at 5:30 p.m., and there are very few dinner restaurants open at that time.
Paying upfront/business deadlines: I recently had a reminder of this cultural lesson. I like to pay for things upfront so when I had something custom made at a tailor shop, I paid upfront. This was wrong because it meant that the shop no longer had any incentive to get the job done or get it done in a timely manner. To top if off, when I got the item, it was not done properly.
Making a scene: Peruvians, due to their preference for indirect communication, do not like it when people make a scene. I told the tailor (see above) that I thought he had terrible service, that I did not want to hear his excuses, and that I would not recommend him to others. This was a scene. But, the tricky part here is… that they were embarrassed for me that I lost my cool. Not embarrassed for themselves for their sucky service. So it’s a no-win situation. One has to simply use the “withhold payment” method (see above) to ensure that you get what you paid for (or will pay for.).
Calling: Peruvians love to use the telephone. They call to double check that the email went through, they call to make sure that what one ordered online is actually what one wants, they call to tell one that things are not going to be ready on time, they call to tell one that things are ready on time, they call, call, call, call… and call. Eventually, you will too.
The weather: In winter, there is no sun. I’m not sure one gets used to it. One gets through it. This may be one of the things that is unique about Lima (maybe also San Francisco, Seattle…)
The air pollution and food poisoning: The air is bad. It’s clammy and almost everyone gets colds related to the clammy air or suffers from other lung related issues. It’s worse closer to the coast. Food poisoning or “intestinal” issues are sort of surprising considering the reputation of the Lima as a foodie city. But, it happens, and it’s not special to Lima. And it happens to the locals too.
Security: Yes, it’s a big city of nine million. (The photo is actually from a place south of Lima, but I like the security measure for one’s purse. Or is it for the chair?) What I miss most is being able to wear a backpack in peace. If you wear a backpack on your back, and you walk in a crowd, you will most likely find that the outermost pockets have been picked. That’s just the way it is. It might not happen. But it might. Also, when paying by credit card, don’t let the card leave your sight. Most restaurants will bring the machine to you, but once in a while, you will need to go to the machine (usually at the bar or cashier).
Traffic: Every city seems to want to win the “worst traffic” award. Lima too. Yes, the traffic is bad. It is what it is. I still think that the traffic in Dhaka wins for badness. It is rare in Lima that you will sit in one place for 90 minutes, swarmed by 500,000 bicycle rickshaws, all while being eaten by mosquitoes. In Lima, as the locals say, “se mueve” or “it moves” — which is true. The traffic is bad in Lima, but it does actually move, even if it’s only at five miles per hour. Glad that I could end this on a positive note.
Another time, I’ll write about the best things about living in Lima.
Tempt Montezuma? Or the belly of Delhi? When I tried 100 restaurants in Dhaka, Bangladesh, people would ask me how I avoided getting “Delhi belly” or “Montezuma’s revenge” — I have some basic policies. First, I follow my gut (ha! Had to be said!). If it smells like death on a plate, then I don’t eat it (gym socks, sure. Death, no.). I drank lots of water. And to that end… Frank, it it wants OUT… I let it out…
Back to the food cart here in my barrio… I am not willing to try every street food cart in the world, but, when I see a crowd lined up waiting, I have to go over and see what they are eating. As you can see, this vendor doesn’t even need to move the cart out to the street. It just stays in her driveway.
The other evening, I saw a crowd, again. So I went over to take photos. As you can see, they sell hotdogs, wings, breast, and mussels? Now, I just need to find someone who’s willing to try it…
I’ve heard lots of people tell me that Lima has the worst traffic… but then, Cairo, Dhaka, Bangkok, Delhi, LA, Santo Domingo, and a few others all claim that title. Even in Port of Spain, they claim to have the worst. I was inclined to say that Dhaka still holds the title. But, there are certain elements to Lima traffic that make it a contender — fear and boredom. In almost all cities with bad traffic, the “me first” aggression is the only way to get ahead, and in Lima, this is readily visible every time you step outside. During rush hour, the sheer numbers of cars all trying to go left from a right lane, or right from a left lane, or through red lights, is normal. There are many traffic cops and they will often override the traffic lights with their light sabers and whistles. The chances of getting in a traffic accident are high.
Then there’s the boredom. The hours spent in traffic (the painting above shows a day with light traffic). It can take an hour to go five miles. Apparently, Lima has grown as a city (9.5 million and counting) with commercial growth in the urban areas instead of expanding outwards. There is a business area to the south of the city but that seems to be it. Everyone else is commuting in to the city. When I say that it’s boring, I mean only if you get carsick from using your smart phone. Otherwise, if you keep your phone out of sight, and keep your wits about you, then…also, the traffic sights are not as interesting here. No camels, colorful rickshaws, overloaded carts, cattle, beggars, and so on. Just cars ad libitum. Ha.
Here in Santo Domingo, the traffic is hellish. That seems to be the collective consensus. I still think Dhaka wins. It’s true that there are many cars on the road here and traffic lights and lanes are mere suggestions, but, the sewers are underground here…
Back to the subject of the taxi. The sedan cars that look like a beat up taxi are actually not a taxi. Even if it has the little trapezoid perched on top with the word, “taxi” written on it. It’s a bus of sorts. It will drive a fixed route, usually up and down a straight stretch of road, picking up and disgorging as many people as can mush themselves into the car — like those clown cars from the circus.
The taxis here are fairly invisible like Uber or Lyft in the U.S. They have Uber here and that seems to be the most popular. They even have Uber Moto here… Another popular taxi service is Apolo taxi. Every ride seems to only cost between 180-300 pesos (3.8-6 bucks) which is much cheaper than many other chauffeur services. Apolo taxi has an app but when I ordered via phone, they even understand MY Spanish. The dispatcher will tell you how many minutes before the ride arrives, the color, make, and a four digit driver number (not the license plate number). I also ask how much it will cost.
The drivers usually only speak Spanish and I even had a semi-intelligent conversation with one, even though he called me a “pendeja” which I pretended not to understand since I assume he meant it in a nice way…
It’s M’s Adventures (madventures to many) fifth anniversary. This map shows just one random day of visitors to my blog…
As seen on the map, the readership of my blog seems very dependent on subject. That subject is Bangladesh. Despite the facet that Bangladesh has a small landmass, it has a large population, and in the social media universe, an interesting statistic. If one looked solely at who is reading M’s Adventures and what topics they like, then it would seem that Bangladesh was the center of the world. But, I’m sure that Google could tell you that that Bangladesh is not the most searched term in their engine. I think that the spike in numbers on M’s Adventures is because there simply aren’t that many blogs written in English about Bangladesh.
As I watch my readership numbers dip, I wonder if I should stop writing this blog. Or when it’s just me and my friend’s cat reading the blog.
But, I’m still amazed each day to see how many hundreds have read my little blog. So for now, I keep blogging! After all, if I didn’t blog about it, did it happen?
Although I lived in Bangladesh for two years, both of those years, the monsoons were not so bad (okay, one night it was awful, walking in the dark potholed street with flooded open sewers) but as Dhaka is located up the river, I didn’t get to experience the risks of coastal living. When I lived in Dhaka, the power went out on a frequent basis, but not for weather related reasons. In the U.S., I’ve experienced more power outages and flooding caused by weather and it looks like I will, again. Welcome to Florida in hurricane season.
I paid attention to the experts. I moved inland. Two days ahead. Then I bought food for ten days (I’m not quite sure why I thought chips and dip were essential foods, but maybe it counts as an activity as well?). Then I turned on the local news to watch the show.
This morning, I went out to check on the shopping frenzy at the local grocery store. It wasn’t a frenzy. Everyone was calm and shopping. Like any day at 11 a.m. (a note about price gouging: call the watchdog phone number if you see price gouging. It’s illegal to profiteer off of a situation like a hurricane. Sheesh.), just with hurricane shutters going up.
Now, I hope we don’t lose electricity. I have blogging to do!
I’ve been writing this blog for four years. In terms of subjects, my informal assessment is that the social media world is most interested in Bangladesh… Or rather, my blog is one of the few about expat life in Dhaka, Bangladesh. When I check the statistics, I’m amazed that my blog has more than 3,000 readers every month.
Having this blog has changed the way I travel, sort of. Mostly, my friends are now quite accustomed to waiting to eat so that I can take a close up photo of their food. Thank you.
Denim jeans are very popular here in Colombia. And the tighter; the better (which makes me imagine that “jeggings” or “pajama jeans” must be popular here?)
Every time I see jeans, in all their glorious stone-washed, faded, painted, ripped, be-jeweled, and stretchiness, I think about when I visited a jeans factory in Bangladesh. There, I saw jeans in the thousands being processed for the textile market. There were work stations where sand paper was used on designated “worn” locations, other rooms with rows upon rows of workers spray painting jeans, or gluing bedazzle applique in rhinestone designs. In other rooms, razors were used to rip slashes, and stretch jeans were pre-stretched on balloon machines. In one room, jeans were wrinkled and pegged before traveling on a clothes line through a curing oven.
All for export. Because, denim, and stretch, was fairly uncommon on the local market in Bangladesh. Maybe it was all headed to Bogota?
As I explore Bogota, I’ve noticed an incredible number of “camiseta” shops. Oddly, I don’t notice an equal number of “pantalones” shops. I guess, if one has a clean new shirt, then one can conquer the world?
A few nights ago, I heard a strange sound through my open windows. It was the sound of monsoon rain. Before moving here, I was told that the weather in Bogota is the same every day. Always 60 F (15 C), cloudy with a chance of sun. Now that it’s October, I’m being told another story. In October, Bogota has a rainy season. Every day for a month, the rainstorms will last longer and may include thunder and wind gusts. And, the temperature drops a few degrees. But, I’m told that come December, the weather will be really nice again.
A street in Candelaria, the old part of Bogota.
This “cold” weather is perhaps the reason that soup is so popular here.
Foreigners warned me that the streets would run with blood. They told me to get out of town for “bloody Eid” which is the second Eid, Eid-ul-Adha. As Eid will be in early October this year, I wanted to share my experience from last year. A warning: while I am not going to post the most graphic photos, some of you may think that the ones I’ve chosen are still TOO graphic. If so, please stop reading now.
Early on the slaughtering morning, we set out for a walk around the neighborhood. All along the streets, lots of groups of men were butchering cattle. There were also lots of “professional” butchers with giant knives ready to butcher for a fee. In reality, once an animal was forced to its knees and had its throat cut, the butchering only took about ten minutes (everything is done halal). Everything was very organized and there was a constant washing and sweeping of the streets. Everyone worked together. The hides were stacked up on rickshaws and taken away.
Perhaps the most surprising thing for an expat started a few days before the butchering. I came down one day to find a doe eyed bull tethered in the garage. Then, after the day of slaughtering, there were only the hooves and a newly washed patch of cement where once the bull had been.
While plastic shopping bags are banned in Bangladesh, I did see during Eid, lots of beef being sold in clear plastic bags. To the Bangladeshis, this is a big family holiday. I wish them a happy Eid!
The Bangladeshis told me that slaughtering a cow (actually, they meant a bull — read about my visit to the cow market) was traditional. Normally, a bull or goat (if your circumstances are lesser) or camel (if you have lots of money), is kept tethered until it is slaughtered. Then the meat is shared out to family, friends, and poor people as an act of charity.
During Eid, the town is empty as everyone is off with their families. Apparently, Bogota also empties out in December for the same reason. And then the traffic is better, a stark contrast to the traffic in Dhaka.
The thing I like most about blogging is that it’s such an easy way to write. To tell a story. I can only think of a few people whom I’ve met who didn’t want to tell me their stories, and even then, they certainly had a story to tell. The skill of storytelling is a form of art. I support everyone’s right (ha! write!) to tell their story.
After I published my photo book, M’s Adventures in Bangladesh, I got many, almost desperate (so great is this desire to share a story and to be published), questions about where to publish for yourself. In the past, this form of publishing was sometimes called “vanity press” but I like CreateSpace’s term better: independently publish. The printing process keeps getting more and more democratic. Most online sites have free options and publishing costs keep getting lower and lower. They even offer e-book publishing for those who want to publish in that format.
Blurb.com: on all the bloggers’ lips, apparently, it’s easy peasy and they will take your entire blog and convert it to a book for you.
Lulu.com: less known, but I chose it because supposedly it would be easy to get my book on Amazon… but it’s not as easy as one might think. You can get an ISBN for your book if you want to sell your book in a brick and mortar book store.
CreateSpace: Amazon (yup, the magic word) owns this publishing house.
Also, there are many online printing companies to choose from (Snapfish, Vistaprint, etc.). My first attempt was going directly through my iPhoto program, but there were too many aggravating glitches in the program for it to be worth my while, plus they did not offer bulk discounts. I found Lulu easy. Perhaps for my next book, perhaps on Colombia or on food, I will try one of the other options. In many parts of the world, printing on the local economy is a very viable option, but for an ever-moving expat, online is the way to go.
Of course, you don’t have to sell your book. So, all you writers, bloggers, storytellers, raconteurs, tell your story. Even if, you end up doing a limited print run, of one.