Vets: For international transportation, I’ve heard good things about Petwings.
Vets: For international transportation, I’ve heard good things about Petwings.
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?
For the past six months, memories of a small kingdom, high on the roof of the world, keeps slipping into my mind. Oh, Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon, how my imagination is painting you in colors of the sun! One of the wonders of a selective memory is the rose colored tint on everything. This is not completely the case with Bhutan. There were things I loved about Bhutan and things that I found less delightful (my apologies to my Bhutanese friends although they are too polite to object). I imagine that Bhutan is a bit like Tibet of yore (or Hollywood’s Tibet). Despite it being the land of Gross National Happiness (the king tells you that you are happy so you will be), it’s not all happiness and light (okay, there is is a lot of light).
With April just around the corner, when I think back to the gho-clad men, strong women, crisp air, and quiet spiritualism, my thoughts turn to the spring festival, or “tsechu,” in Paro. The tsechu is a multi-day religious festival and a dream for a photographer (and for those of us who like to take photos). More about the tsechu in a later blog post.
I had so many things from Bhutan framed that my framer asked me if I was Bhutanese. No, but thanks for the compliment.
A great delight of living in Dhaka is getting custom made, hand crafted frames. But, much more than that, my framer, Shamim of Cezanne Gallery, is an artist. Like great artists, he grows and develops his craft. I have given him several new styles of frames which I designed for my own photographs and artwork, and he took the ideas and “ran with it” as Americans like to say. I am impressed. Cezanne Gallery also has ready made paintings and artwork for purchase but I prefer the framing experience when sitting in the calm studio on the second level of UAE mall, ceiling fan blowing, and artistic inspiration flying.
The Cezanne Gallery is hard to find because it’s in plain sight. It’s located in the UAE Market on Kemal Ataturk, in Banani. If you drive west on Kemal Ataturk away from Gulshan 2 Circle, then this red brick two level mall will be on you left right before you reach airport road.
He is pricier than some other shops but his frames are cheap compared to the U.S. where a custom made frame can cost $24 per inch. Cezanne’s prices vary depending on what you get done but my frames have cost from $4-$150. Cezanne Gallery will re-do something if you do not like it. They deliver in a week (literally will deliver if your frame is too big or you cannot pick it up). They have an array of frames, mattes, and will match the color of the matte and frame to some part of the artwork or anything you can indicate (I once asked for the frame to match the brick wall outside). I thoroughly enjoyed the creative process of thinking up designs for my frames and I have done a fair amount of framing. Shamim is a gentleman and I have enjoyed the endless possibilities we have discussed while sitting in Cezanne Gallery.