Paying the Help and Tipping in Lima

As I mentioned in my posting about what I like about living in Lima, I wrote that I would blog about domestic staff. One of the nice things about life in Lima is the affordable help. Most people use the term “empleada” as the term for domestic help since traditionally one’s domestic help was a “female employee” and some refer to them as a maid. I use the word cleaner if they are someone who comes to clean or “ama de llaves” (homemaker of the keys) if it is a female housekeeper. Expats pay between 60-150 soles per day, average 70-90, soles per day. Some pay up to 180 (Peruvians may pay less). Domestic help sometimes lives in the home, but these days, this is becoming rare even for the Peruvian households to have live-in help.

I think that payday is twice a month or per day (if part-time). If the employee works full time, then they must have a contract and insurance. If they are part-time, they don’t need insurance. Twice a year, in July (to be paid by early July) and December, there is a bonus payment. The bonus is half of a month’s salary (there may be some calculation for how many years they have been employed, but I think that’s a percentage as well). Some people pay for a uniform for their staff. These days, the uniform seems to be a polo shirt and khaki pants (not distinguishable as a uniform — at least to my untrained eye — I guess it’s sort of like “gardening clothes”).

The doormen (porteros) also receive a bonus in December. Commonly, a Christmas Panettone (a type of sweet bread) is given in December. Or money. One can give them something in July as well. Or, one can give them nothing. It’s not required.

I0DmnsiiIST8Cnfhw1U8OZk0mpRbN3nQJjpmYPpm4mN7tT-JasCUvsKdVNiVB_o-jcy_nbY-FX-qeULl3e7OqjDVn1BfY47aAsag0Kv1vDzbqRNTqgs2Ru54hHAG5pADJvWs_V6Y8fvyYwAjQMWJS19qXjWv0TQECScmHYAPjzp8-WRxrrgnBeSVk8UEa06_r4muQqVa0Kdt_4k8voRL-_703I-FLik

Tipping: Generally, tipping has become common at higher end restaurants. It’s 10 percent. At the local places, just a few soles if you thought it was good service. No tipping in taxis. That said, if you have parked somewhere, generally you tip the parking attendant or the person who has flagged you in (and kept an eye on your car…). Just a few cents like 50 cents or a sol. Some stores, like Wong, have bagboys (they are always young men) who carry your groceries to your car or house (yes! if within a certain distance), but they don’t need a tip and the ones who carry your stuff to your car will actually refuse a tip.

Soe2bOn3N7n0Af6PZBrPmejKS9Xr4vZGlR5Cj_GPboAOuXt-l_eKN5a4f_I1a9wV6alMG1gB-HWRpuZKppYV8LA6j_LdJIDNaZlRrwkJi0ugEOD5bCP9tcwBburFhgZkjrdbNl13c5O3FkdDW0LbSMYmVlUrDnfnLwAeBusUSgMzRy-i96LksIYmvAAgpbcGLh88BYOW-H4jO6JQlb754naCR4HrJvG.jpg

The Best Things About Expat Life in Lima – Or, It’s Always Avocado Season

In celebration of Peru’s independence days, “fiestas patrias,” (July 28 is independence day and July 29 is a holiday for the armed forces and police), here is my posting about what I think is great about living in Lima. As I did for some of the other places I have lived, I have already written about what I don’t like about living in Lima. Before living in Lima, I had visited more than five times as a tourist. The first time was immortalized in this blog posting. Now that I’ve been here for more than a food-frenzied weekend, the following things are what I like about living here.

The food scene: The restaurants. It seems like every week, there is a new restaurant opening, and thanks in great part to Gaston Acurio, the culinary scene has become part of the national identity. There are fancy-foamy-intellectual dining establishments, fast food franchises, family-run restaurants, neighborhood favorites, and hole-in-the-wall secrets.

The immigrants: This is one of the reasons that the food scene in Lima is great. Thanks to the Chinese (Chifa is a normal word here for a Chinese food and restaurant, and it is as ingrained in the local food choices as hamburgers), the Japanese (Nikkei is the word used for both the food style and the Japanese Peruvians — this month celebrating 120 years in Peru), the Italians, the Lebanese, and all the other immigrants who have been been contributing to the deliciousness in Lima. Thank you to the newest (those two Thai restaurant owners, those Pakistani and Indian guys, that American with the chocolate shop, and those three Swedish ladies, that Mexican guy, and the Venezuelans, and all of those others whom I have yet to discover… I’m looking at you, shawarma palace!). Plus, many of the Peruvians are domestic immigrants — from somewhere else in the country (bringing things like their delicious cheeses… which I’m told is called “country cheese”).

The Palta Fuerte (the palta fuerte is too delicate and buttery to be exported, I’m guessing): It is always avocado season. When buying an avocado, the vendor will ask the day and time that you plan to eat it so that they can sell you one that will be ripe at the precise moment that you plan to enjoy it. “Palta” is the word for avocado in Peruvian Spanish. No one in Peru says “aquacate” even if they may know what you are talking about. At a restaurant, you can ask for a side of palta and it’s totally normal, like asking for butter (but better).

The juice (plus fruit and produce in general): the lemonade (they offer it made with pureed lemongrass at most places), the passion fruit, the orange juice, the blackberry juice. Plus, the pineapples are delicious and the mangoes have a season (like Edwardian socialites). The Edward mango is especially yummy as it has fewer fibers.

The chocolate: Go to El Cacaotal. That is my one must-do for visitors, for newbies, for chocolate haters… now serving hot chocolate and coffee!

The cultural offerings and activities: cooking classes, chocolate tasting lessons, Cordon Bleu courses, surfing classes, dance schools, wine tasting lessons, the circus, theater productions, gyms, yoga, concerts, archery sessions, wine and paint classes, museums, open studio nights, expos, marathons, fairs, farmers markets, and almost any other activity that you can imagine in a metropolis (there is always something to do). Even comicon.

The walkability: they even have ciclovia. Yes, you can walk here. There are sidewalks, parks, and hiking trails.

The neighborhoods: I like that there are actual neighborhoods, farmers markets, barrios, districts, parks, malls (mega ultra modern and local “centro commerciales”), and the coast (its own microcosm).

The positive attitude toward expats/foreigners: Generally, as a foreigner, I don’t feel hate or suspicion from the locals. The Peruvians are,  generally, pro-American culture, and certainly pro-European culture. While most Peruvians don’t approach/talk to foreigners, they also don’t harass them and follow them around (as would happen in other countries where I have lived)… It’s funny, the little things one appreciates. As a foreigner, one can have a life here without being a circus act.

The security: I am completely amazed to see people out jogging, with headphones on, at night. Granted this is along the more patrolled streets but I am still amazed. Utterly. Amazed. Every. Single. Day. Really. Still. Ah-maze-ed.

The view of the ocean: Yes. It’s amazing. Beaches too. If one likes sand.

The public toilets: Almost all grocery stores and malls have public toilets. One has to remember to not flush the toilet paper, but, at least they have toilet paper, although, not always in the actual stall — so get it beforehand.

Delivery: Like in Bogota, almost anything can be delivered.

The taxi prices: $2 for a basic short ride of a few miles. Sometimes $7 for an hour’s ride.

Help: there is always someone to carry the groceries, the taxi drivers help with luggage, the doormen help with stuff, and domestic help is a normal part of life here. I’ll write more about that in a separate posting. Aside from the domestic cleaners, there are nannies, gardeners, drivers, porters, dog walkers, DJs, caterers, dishwashers, movers… you name it. I have an “event tech” whom I hire for parties. I may change that title to “event engineer” as engineer seems to be the new generic term for “trained” (I was chatting with a taxi driver who told me that he used to be a “production engineer” — he potted yogurt in a lab. He chose to drive a taxi because the yogurt potting only paid $670 per month, double the minimum wage, but he makes double that as a taxi driver, even though he works double the hours. But, at least, he is his own boss).

The prices for dental care: as with most things, one can pay lots of money for dental care, but one can also get good dental care for $17 (cleaning and checkup). But, if one wants to pay $170, one can. Many of the dentists have trained in other countries and their certifications in those countries may not be valid here.

The prices in general: from picture framing to groceries, to clothing alterations, to the above mentioned items.

And, did I mention the palta?

The Realities of Daily Life in Lima

5w0Le4c3gUB-osQE6MMgGGbOfjezYOM8Nad9KXoQUfHW67HHlzLLjh0GcfyK7b_WAu4MVraRef6mzVW2-Amql6Eyn0FLuIJ9hK6xVcsyQOoOl6JD4PSyUQbrzoMx--339vnks78wXrKc50ifZlOBvKnJSQYSS-GFXzdCSNoS9CPbOejGM_pdZqPzWl-oBSYppia6BoEdD4w4-wk_KKm1W4BZOl1FHcmHaving 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.

Resources for Expats Living in Peru

nFl6V4I1gah5iRVNhBl635ZQgWjWPymn6ten2VCNCiQcUM3CdbeKxmMcXGLSGBcofa-C_DrNmj5c2TKT9y6PMIWtdXCaLvcQRSPpmtbGNop_dwqQO1yBqNnuGGQK3Is9exiLBlP_tJd53MyIc4n8A6Z-DzRGbze20oKE2P0U20rGkrdTScZoYUYtArNormally, I would have done lots of googling before moving to a new country but with Peru, I’m playing catchup. Here are some expat sites from a quick trawl on Google:

I’d say the most “famous” is Living in Peru started by a Dane, Carsten Koch: Living in Peru.

Live In Peru: for finding real estate in Peru. The hot spots are Miraflores, Barranco, and San Isidro, but I’d go for Magdalena La Mar and Lince, if I was looking.

Expat Peru

Internations

Transitions Abroad

Escape Artist

Expat Woman

Expat Focus

Expat Exchange

Life in Peru

Pink Pangea

American in Lima

Matador

Life in the 3rd World

No Sleep Till Peace

The blog of an expat.

 

For concerts: http://conciertosperu.com.pe/agenda-conciertos/ (including free ones  or “gratis” in Spanish)

And because food is one of the major delights of living in Peru (picarones shown below):  Peru Delights

DZgj2cJD-AEJpK1OHdIQprYAUapYoT0tvtKunBFM-vvFei660fRhoedVy1jNhXmgsr2Bnu-sSQNP2ziIUtV2Hn63WHfh9GLcNSZBOdbTavd79JLxyRJP2-7S33FOsBoiRIXYPXykgINiiluhsxjfoxi2rpxv7jEggBe-6AsRrA2Boh9E9XF0_ka5Vh

The Great Pizza Hunt – Lima

DsI0Qg9msH3LwXNtTuTA7erbleTz5JwZVOSSz6nTmommj30KP2Q9YydyXH3PsfexQIt0P50Qe6vJfA-to46SZQDbe9gqE0dIORTizSe4FI6usaLO22ohBX3RGCo9S_wJ6strWAhAWnaTsTbvnKbqsTtDcv7A0NLHbaNXUc4MDyhC68w4NmbNbjx55A******* Updated February 2020******** My idea of a good pizza is chewy Italian style pizza. Apparently, what I like is called an artisanal pizza. Having now eaten lots of pizza for a few months, I would say that there are four types of pizza in Lima. Andean: thin crust; Lima-style: cracker thin crust: artisanal as in hand stretched, artsy, and often with a moist center; and American as in from the USA in the style of Pizza Hut or school cafeterias with a bready high crust.

My favorites are:

Troppo’s pizza dough is the best in town — it is salty, crunchy, chewy, and made by a prize winning Italian chef.

Spizza, recently moved to Miraflores: a chewy Italian style crust and the oven is all wood burning. Some of their toppings are not good but select carefully. They also deliver through food delivery apps.

Punto Italiano, in La Molina: touted as a non-fancy place, I’d say it has a sort of rustic feel but it’s not a hole-in-the-wall, and the waiter speaks English. All wood burning oven as well.

Mercado 28: has a good pizza place. Few options but good.

La Caleta: cracker thin but good toppings.

Pan Sal Aire, Almirante Miguel Grau 320, Barranco: all wood burning oven but pizza crust is very wet and they use CANNED mushrooms which I think should be illegal when fresh ones are available.

La Pizza de la Chola: The oven looks right, the place is “hip” looking, but, but, the wood is for show, and most of the time, Chola (the owner, also owns El Pan de la Chola and Chola Dasso), fires up the gas in the oven when he bakes the pizzas. Good ingredients and super-chi chi such as Stilton Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts (I think). There are only four flavors.

Antica: Don’t go for the cocktails (I say this because some folks do go there and think that they will also be able to get a good cocktail…), but they make a solid pizza and have the closest thing to a pepperoni a la the U.S. pizza that I’ve found here. They also make a nice oily spaghetti with oil and chili (when having carbs, go for carb with carb!).

Fornaria 850, in Barranco: they look legit, have the oven, but their toppings are not top. But, I’ll say that when I went, they gave me a free arugala and proscuitto pizza. That was good. The other toppings are not.

8wzEbRP7oPY4i8Oib9sX6Xi6taWxzorQg9xZFZKZP6fkYP9o9VmvRRzlk08fcV5dVITWj6mjK70WSm-073OTBKEyjHaahiy79oEZvDDtUnG6v5v6aysBAAKVehSlbpdutG3TB5DxvcFmdqH1PR3y6riUD0e9-7qLpPN8aXWG700qtOP91jrSatxrjCPizza Al Volo, a mobile wood burning oven pizza cart, 984 714 955; pizzacateringperu@yahoo.com: the owner, Brian, speaks fluent English, and he will bring his wood burning oven to your garden party. It’s thin pizza but he can make thicker ones if you want him to. See photo above.

Vd2fkzCSIgxGm_CuM2lp_CHl7nJyhdccBGjqbaqW5FOqvWFgshWi0fOCuhqIwLpeZICMMQAEjkRSxjdPomQhHb-kgrUKrfgX3iuy-t3IapFaFy6O_Q_wXw26LsMVKyTbQa-eic14N2tJlKcTOd-Ew7VC17RTTz-xrT9Zy9DdM27PVTbRIfeVjIXU-dMorelia, Miraflores: very kid friendly. Good salads, and the pizza is actually a large oblong flat bread which they cut in half for the “personal size” pizza!

La Linterna: an old fave with the Limenos. Also good carb on carb pasta options.

CimLr8NIEUTsWt4OS-yYDns_URyDWgQItgBj3OtjkhdtiETUhueaznPlKg_xfYi9Ux2WEg0qrVNMwDOrGq2Eqf2iQdStCLduNsHctXWXSUwJCer5BzPvcI_V9pCmbJq_NLjePVtwDU5yzzBqSsbZVJSJyYhz_sFyrlkPh21EuKKaAB9PDcNnhplTd0Veggie Pizza: a chain. Each of the locations has a different feel. The pizzas look artsy like sushi or dominoes. I took mine home and added meat. The story of this chain is cute because it’s four or three brothers who wanted to improve the health of their other brother.

Then there are other places that also serve pizza: Donatella, Danica, Rafael (yes, THAT Rafael) who all make Lima style pizza. Not exceptional.

Mama Rosa: this is high foccacia (but not as tasty) style pizza.

Lima has a Pizza Street. For Limenos of a certain age, they recall wandering down this street (off of Parque Kennedy) after a night out. I did not go there for my great pizza hunt.

The Weather in Lima

To those contemplating moving to to Miraflores in Lima, think about the sun. During the winter, May-September, the sun doesn’t come out. At all. There are no shadows in the omnipresent gloom of winter. Hard to believe but true. During the winter, in the afternoon between 5-7 pm, a cold damp wind will blow up and it will feel noticeably colder. This is when the Limenos eat “lonche” a “lunch” that is akin to British afternoon tea of a hot drink and a sandwich. Also during the winter in Lima, the smell from the fish meal processing plants often pervades the city (apparently many Limenos who live abroad relish that familiar smell when they visit).

xvfw4eo1Vqx9F9uvNtuVSZ9FI8RTUdyGwuPdi8V6hAeSwKVaSYQ8--rZyxN_f2tb88k3Jl1_d2yQWrbQw6WWvANcqvdguBNQdSdJCpuaQhPwYVOVZcziu2ojzf5wY-_yvvFNKdxw5V4tARCUqf3AhZA18SbpBdnTOmQsSxxDq-NeDnqk1gwI4jEgLn

But, in the summer, the weather can be glorious. That said, in the summer, the weather depends on where you live. If you live inland (even five blocks can make a difference) in San Borja, or Surco or La Molina, there will be sun, and often quite hot burning sun. But, if you live within blocks of the ocean in Miraflores, prepare for bouts of fog. Yes, even during the summer. I’m told, that for health reasons many people choose not to live on the coast because of the humidity in the air.

QI3-EPlXVOnjkbZqhyri_yojdCRI2Kz6ELzEcZcOe759YfX61nTcLN0r0Xt5yuaoPJOIfFNIzWmN-EKlLN8RJchRYodmPLIhyvSJUKCWaIesVhyYmb-x_ciT9m-GGTD4gRtrJ2Fqh5caUbCbPxKRryWmN5ZMCUOQWcRtBR-8bn3tRSuWTV17yk8YUe

Another thing about the weather in Lima — it never rains. Ever (a few piddly drops is not rain in my books). Lima is a desert city on a coast. No rain storms although there is usually a nice wind blowing on the coast.

The temperature in Lima stays fairly even. 70-80 in the summer. In the winter, the temperature can drop to 55-60 degrees. The locals tell me that because they are not accustomed to extreme temperatures (snow and 100 degrees), they are more sensitive to the weather. In the winter, one sees Limenos to wear puffy winter jackets and gloves.

I’ll be the person wearing sandals all year.

Do You Speak Castillian?

The Spanish is slightly different here in Peru. First of all, it’s not Spanish. It’s “castellano” which is a result, I’m guessing, from when the conquistadors came over from Castille. The Peruvians use an incredible amount of slang, but I’m not sure if it’s more than everyone else. Now that I have dreams in Spanish (many of which “no entiendo”), some Lima specific terms are becoming part of my daily language. Here are a few of them:

de frente: in Spanish class, we learned “derecha” for “right” and “de recho” for “straight on” — that won’t work here. If you say “de recho” to a taxi driver here, they will assume you said to turn right and got the vowel wrong. If you want them to go straight, say “de frente”. Not to be confused with “en frente” which is across”.

A doubler – to turn.

Playa: parking lot (yes! so you will find “parking beaches” far away from the water).

Cobrer – to cost/pay.

IMG_7175Palta: avocado

Maracuya: it’s passionfruit but I have to recall the English because that heady scent seems much more of a “mah-ra-coo-yay” for some reason.

Ficho: fancy

Guinasso: F&*(*ing awesome. I think that’s how it’s spelled…

Hallar: hitch a ride

Sencilla (Efectivo/Plata/dinero in other forms of Spanish): for petty cash or small change. There is a lot of fake money here so people prefer coins  and small bills.
Barrio versus district: seems to be a matter of “class” — when I referred to Miraflores as my barrio, I was met by giggles of embarrassment. It’s apparently not a barrio, and certainly not in Castillian!

 

First Plus World – Vancouver

kwUiXDB-IDA6ZkXTbKdVK2MLMCf3iD-Eol1Sb-N0nXyIGynds7vmtBv1anfMSLH3IDmirEQN70Z8LRkRzkF7LuTovJdGHUg2t95q7ZifBvLDH-iEMUQem1i-cxM4Z5Mvxnj2xdyA7C2gsLlphMP1x4ijETzsq8Co_KRR3o8mXiPbXdtlQ_JUz3m4QfI think that Vancouver is too nice for me. It’s more than first world. It’s first plus world. Clean, modern, cosmopolitan, green, environmentally friendly, and surrounded by gorgeous nature. Sure, it rains a lot. Like every day. It’s a bit pricey. But, life is good in Vancouver. Vancouver is serious about recycling (and cycling) and the traffic lights blink — even on the green — when a pedestrian is nearby. The restaurants are good, the food is good, and there’s Granville Island market. And the Caesar.

r1IorfgO455P1Ola-y9iyTFVflLs1rhkENbM6g2dUBLchZ0lxAvO-RcCR7cgV9dEmrbUYGnXqbrNxGMHVwlvWY76TcoPx4LvAzkbeZN_Dtd3OrkbIBlo3kzfM80e6FQ_LByCP2cz0AXQD-Fhr6lJn4-hnA3DFIXfMNjWZqaLziXIvnYfUdusXXUd1ASure, there are downsides to life in Van. It’s got fast drivers. There are shaming commercials on television to force you to recycle. Apparently the taxes can be high… but the food is good (some sort of good fish with local vegetables grown with moon beans and poetry, shown here).

rYIPCcrh8TSdxtW997o26FNL6cO4KoXsEMDibxCUHk7fRKVp2e8iQqFHRxI3Nh6TyZ55N1vBZy5Kv645Bim_Me1Dt-elGDRuj1y-nBondkNR0Q8QvGhLuizRjT1dkMZ6a_Mi0Exsq-HoBAF1PFxJTHX9VTrFBewRLJEmyezZfCT_tIRA1zQPRNLH29Like I said. Too nice for me.

Big City Bogota – The Realities of Daily Life

Just as I wrote about the realities of life in Dhaka, I thought I’d post about Bogota.

Bogota is a big city with nine million inhabitants. The traffic is that of a big city. Muggings and robberies are normal here. Again, it’s not going to happen every day. I’m not sure what the crime rate is compared to New York, but Bogota doesn’t “feel” dangerous. It’s best to not go out alone after dark (male or female) and take the usual precautions that one would take in a big city. The rich neighborhoods are not free of muggings, sadly. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere really safe. That’s the main difference, I think, between, here and there (where ever that might be).

The people are big city people so they are not always perceived as the friendliest in the world. Outside Bogota, the people of Colombia are very friendly. Also, the friendliness level may change depending on if you are visiting a strata six or strata two neighborhood (six is the rich area). I find the people friendlier, the lower the strata…

And then there’s “scope,” scopelamine. Actually, on the walk up to Guatavita Lagoon, we saw the beautiful flower from which the “scariest drug” in the world is made. Read up about this online. Don’t get scoped. Watch your drinks when you go out.

Also, never let the waiter take your credit card out of your sight. Watch your wallet at all times. And, if you get mugged, don’t fight (at least that the advice I’ve been given). Unfortunately, some of the muggings have ended in murder which seems to exemplify how dangerous it is here.

But, again, I know people who have lived here for years and don’t feel that Bogota is dangerous at all. They walk outside at night by themselves and are fearless.

Some of the other downsides to life here in Bogota is the pollution. Also, to many, the fact that the weather is always 65 F, every single day, every day, for 365 days of the year… well, some consider it to be cold. This is not the tropics. It’s not Panama. I think that the biggest misconception that people have about Bogota is that they think this is a Mexico with warm weather, corn tortillas, beans, and sand. It’s not. It’s a cool, temperate climate with overcast days and rain on a daily basis. It’s also sunny every day. There is no heating or air conditioning in the apartments. Most people live in apartments. So, if you want a house with a large yard, then this is not the city for you.

On the other hand, if you like dogs, this is the place for you. If you like having a nanny (for your kids…), a dog walker, etc. then this is the place for you. Also, exercise, gyms, and plastic surgery are normal parts of life here. But, the sidewalks are cracked, the traffic can be awful, the drivers aggressive, and the politeness can drive you mad! In traffic, the drivers take out their aggression but in other ways, people are very polite, even when they keep telling you that you can’t pay there, or that you have to go to the next counter, or that the line is busy, or the till just closed, etc. It can drive you bonkers!

Mainly, for me personally, the lack of diversity and lack of quality Vietnamese, Lao, and Thai food is the biggest downside. But, give it 40 years.

The photo below is from one of my adventures when I went looking for a multi-pocketed “chaleca” vest like what the workers wear (and photographers and tour guides).

IMG_1121

Best Massage in Bogota

Some things are difficult to find in Bogota. Thai massage is one of them. The closest one gets is from Alvaro Silva. His phone number is 314-357-6656. Email address is sinergia79@gmail.com. His massages are 90 minutes long and cost 150,000 pesos. (Massage therapists don’t usually receive tips, and some refuse, so that’s the set price.)  Alvaro does Thai-, hot rock-, pressure point-, oil-, and Swedish massage. Plus, he also offers other wellness products like personal training sessions and exercise classes.

His massages are usually done on the floor on yoga mats (so he can pretzel your legs and arms) but he also uses a massage table if you have one. Only caveat with Alvaro is that he doesn’t speak English. It’s still easy to communicate with him and he can usually tell where you are in pain. Another thing that I like about him is that he doesn’t talk during the massage (unless you want to) and he doesn’t keep checking on how you like the session (I usually play music from a relaxation app on my phone so I tend to zone out and concentrate). Sometimes I wish that I had booked more than one massage because he’s spent the whole 90 minutes unknotting my back.IMG_2716

Most hotels have spas so one can get massages in fancy environments. I’ve only tried a few massage therapists and spas in Colombia. As this is Bogota, you can get the massage therapist to come to your house. The style of massage in Colombia seems to be mainly “Swedish.” I prefer pressure point and deep tissue. The other massages I’ve had here cost about half the price of Alvaro’s, but they were also only half as good. Most of the other massages involved lots of oil and Swedish style (light sweeping strokes). But, some people don’t agree with me and tell me that they get strong massages from other therapists (but each person has a different level of pressure that they like — one person’s pain is another person’s so-so).

My advice is to try them out and see which one you like.

 

American Grocery Shopping In Bogota

In my cultural classes about Colombia, it was made clear that “American” applied to everyone in this hemisphere, so the proper term for someone from the U.S.A. was “unitedstatesian.” Of course, here in Bogota, if you say that you are from New York, then the Colombians will say that you are an “American” or a “gringo” … so… so much for that.

Bogota has many “American” grocery items but some of them are very hard to find. But, most of the main grocery stores (like Carulla, Jumbo, and Exito) carry “American” goods. The specialized produce store, Surtifruver, has a meat counter and a cheese store, Cava de Queso, inside their stores. Also many items can be found at the Carulla on Calle 84 is what I call the “expat” Carulla as they carry pickled herring from Sweden and other items that expats look for.

IMG_7085The following are some of the items that I have found hard to find, and where to find them:

Sweet potato: sometimes called the “Peruvian camote” as the orange fleshed American sweet potato is used in Peruvian ceviche dishes (like the one in the photo above). This can be found in Paloquemao, not just at Peter’s Chinese vegetable stall, but at more and more places. They can’t be found every time I visit, but with more and more frequency.

Kale: Now it’s even available in styrofoam containers at Paloquemao. Also can be bought at the organic shop on Calle 72, and more and more, at the mainstream grocery shops.IMG_0463

Chili: It is possible to find chilis in Carulla, Surtifruver, etc. but the Chile Lady of Paloquemao has a wide assortment, both fresh and dried.

Lemons: seen sometimes in Pricesmart (Costco) and I’ve heard, in Exito.

Spring onions: Oh, you can find them, but they aren’t the succulent tender kind that I’m looking for.

Asian vegetables: read about it here.

Thai basil: It can be had once in a while in the Surtifruver on Calle 85. But, if you ask at the herb stalls at Paloquemao…. you will get some other herb with tight small leaves.

Mint: Also, if you ask for “menthe” you will get handed something that doesn’t quite smell like you imagined. If you want biggish mint leaves, then ask for “yerbabuena” and it’ll be good in your summer rolls.

Fresh milk: At Carulla on Tuesdays (and other days but Tuesday seems to be delivery day). Also, can be had from some organic grocery delivery companies.

Fresh cream: Nope.

Four Years of M’s Adventures

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.

IMG_1050

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.